Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. In terms of moral temptation, we're all in the same boat. Whether in the church or not, all of us are prone to moral sins, and the media makes such sinning easy.
Today, exploding the myths about who is vulnerable to the power of the internet. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win, with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, are we too hard on ourselves? Everyone has sexual desire, and some would say repressing it is like keeping a beach ball underwater. Dave, I'm going to answer that question by responding to an image that is just coming to mind.
You know, back on the farm when horses were running together and you had a wagon, as long as they stayed on the road, everything was fine. But you know, sexual desires can be like what you used to call a runaway, where the horses are on their own, they will not stop, they'll go into all kinds of forbidden territory, and they are literally out of control. That's the way our sexual desires can be. And of course, our motive as believers should be toward purity.
That's why these messages are so critical. But let me ask another question, and perhaps it's one you have never thought of before. Were you there when they crucified our Lord?
Think about that, and I'm going to be answering that question at the end of this broadcast. Now let us listen to God's Word. John Bunyan, in his book entitled The Holy War, discusses how Diabolos, who is the devil intends to take man's soul, man's soul. Liken your heart to a castle for just a moment, and the demons are discussing, how are we going to get man's soul to let us in?
Because he cannot enter unless the doors are opened from the inside. And one of the demons says, we will promise things that will never be. We will tell him about things that he'd like to have that he shall not receive, and basically it is lies, lies, lies, lies, we will get man's soul to let us in. And that's our problem, isn't it?
You and I have a heart, and that heart was designed for God. It is like a castle, but we open its doors to the enemy, and the result is very evident. And the problem is that you and I have within us traitors that want to be tempted by our enemy, and so the enemy plays on those traitors until we are defeated and we let him in.
Well, this is a series of messages titled Guard Your Heart, Sexual Purity in a Media Culture, and How Necessary These Messages Are. You know, we live in a world in which the media is everywhere, and somebody asked me this week, is the media evil? Is technology evil? Well, the obvious answer is no, technology is not evil, because technology itself cannot sin, but it is weighted against us, as I mentioned last time in the message. And this past week, a staff member and I happened to be in Orlando, Florida for a conference, and we visited Campus Crusade and we discovered there its ministry, which is GMO, Global Missionary Outreach, and they are using the internet to spread the gospel all around the world, including Muslim countries, and hundreds and even thousands in certain countries of the Middle East are turning to Jesus Christ, largely because of the power of the internet. And so can media be redeemed and used for good?
Absolutely, but it has to be redeemed out of the hands of the evil one. In preparation for this series, I've read a number of different books, and one that I've not quite yet finished has to do with the story of a man who was deeply into pornography and how God delivered him, and we'll make that bibliography available to you at a future time. But the amazing story is he goes into the depth of pornography today, even in the lives of children. Parents, you can't believe what is happening to your children at the age of four or five or six that are already playing video games and into the internet.
It is just enough to make a stone cry. So I ask you today, even though I'm not going to go into detail about that, just recognize that what we're talking about is huge, and I learned that the thing that has made the internet so great worldwide is really pornography. It has fueled it.
It is the one that has made the internet so successful and so reaches to the ends of the earth, and you and I are supposed to live righteous lives in the midst of this. If you were with us last time, and if you weren't, I hope you get the message, I gave you three myths that we have to overcome, three myths that we have to explode, and today I'm giving you three more myths that we need to confront and destroy. The first myth is this, that this series of messages and what I'm talking about really pertains to somebody outside the church, somebody who perhaps is going to be arrested this week for a sex crime.
That's a myth. I'm talking about us. Specifically, I'm talking about your sons raised in a good Christian home. I'm talking about your daughters.
I'm talking about our grandchildren. I'm also speaking about your husband, and I'm speaking about your wife. Rather than us thinking that the problem is out there, let's be honest and recognize that it is within all of our hearts, and to look at things more or less on a continuum, rather than there's that person over there and there's this person over here, because all of us are tempted, all of us struggle, and all of us at times have failed, so let us simply recognize that the problem is here and not somewhere else. You know, at the day of prayer and fasting and marvelous time, by the way, as hundreds of us gather together to pray on Wednesday night after a day of fasting, I put a chair in front of the group, and then I asked those who were struggling with impurity to sit on the chair if they wanted special prayer. One person after another came and sat on the chair. If we'd have continued along that line and not moved on, I'm sure the rest of the evening could have simply been people coming to sit on the chair for special prayer, and then I made the statement that if we were honest, all of us at some time would be very appropriate to sit on that chair and say, I struggle with impurity. And some of you who do, it may not be even entirely your fault. I've had a number of men tell me, my father introduced me to it. Think of that power, the power of a father over a son to introduce his child to that kind of bondage and that kind of sin.
Now, to get out of it, you're going to have to own it all. It's not our responsibility of pointing fingers, but to simply say that, let us not be quick to judge, but recognize that we're talking about all of us at some level. Second myth is that you can be a user and it doesn't impact anything. It doesn't affect anything. It doesn't affect your relationship. What difference does it make as to what I do in private? Huge difference.
Because of time I can't go into it, but it affects your relationship with your wife, with your children, your ability to lead as a father. Because no father can really give free and good guidance to his son as long as he is dealing with a sin that has overcome him, a sin over which he has not victory. And so don't fool yourself. Don't lie about that. And then thirdly, that we can get out of this alone. You know, those who struggle with pornography have all testified that one of the ways that they have gotten out of it, one of the ways is simply by finding a friend to whom they confess, to whom they are accountable. And we'll be saying more about that in future messages. Well, so far for the introduction, would you turn with me please to James chapter one, James chapter one. And that's where this message is going. As we look at the cycle downward, here's what we're going to do. We're going to look within our own hearts and then having looked within our own hearts, we're going to point the way to the solution, which is of course our responsibility and our privilege. So James chapter one, James now gives us the cycle by which we fall into sin. It is the steps downward to death.
Let me list them for you and describe them. First of all, we invite our desires to deceive us. We invite our desires to deceive us.
I am going to pick it up in verse 13, chapter one. Let no one say when he is tempted, I'm being tempted by God. For God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one.
Let's just stop there for a moment. God does not lure you into sin. God tests us and that's why the same word temptation here is really translated test at the beginning of the letter. God tests us to bring out the best in us. Temptation lures us into sin.
He tempts us to bring out the worst, but you can't blame God. James is saying you can't say, well, God, you're the one who got me into this. You're the one who lured me into sin. James says you can't do that, but then he goes on to say each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Verse 14, lured and tempted. I love the translations which says, and he is carried away by his own desires. And James here is using the word desire in the sense of lust.
Now there are many righteous desires, the desire for companionship, the desire of course to eat, the desire for intimacy, all of those things. But what happens is Satan and of course our very own flesh, as James points out here, lures us away. Now the imagery that is used here is that of a bait. When you're catching fish, you use a certain kind of bait.
When you're catching animals, you may use a snare. What he's saying is our desires unchecked by God and if not restrained by God, lure us away. They carry us to a different place, James is saying, and they do, don't they? And when you are being carried away by your desire, you're not being carried away to a place where you don't want to go.
You are being carried exactly to the place where you want to go. That's why you put yourself in the place of temptation is because you want to go in this direction, James would say. And then of course, once you drift off, you can't understand this very well unless you understand the meaning of the word trance, where you are in such a state where you want what you want, to quote the words of Woody Allen, the heart wants what it wants, and you are in such a state that you will pursue that with all that you are and you'll be totally oblivious to God. It's not that you'll hate God, as Bonhoeffer pointed out.
A person in the midst of such a situation doesn't hate God, he just forgets about God. God is blocked out, the consequences of your sin are blocked out, that is taken out of the mind and there you are and only one thing matters, and that is the desire, which has now turned into an obsession. So James says that the first step is we have our desires that deceive us.
And then he goes on to a second step and he says secondly, we act. You'll notice it says, verse 15, then desire when it is conceived, you see desire and temptation, they are the ones that conspire together and there's a live birth and the live birth is sin. And so sin develops and the act is committed and of course that act now leads the person to continue to watch what he's watching, it leads his eyes, it leads his hands as to what he does, his feet as to where he goes, and all of that now is being governed as he seems to be helpless in the face of this tremendous temptation that has literally carried him away. And the next time he commits the very same sin, he's going to have to go into it deeper, there's more that is going to be needed to get the buzz that he got last time and so the cycle will be repeated with ever increasing consequences and great need, says James. And as it says in the book of Proverbs so accurately, the man who does not have self-control is like a city that has been barraged and it has no walls.
The city has been destroyed and there are no walls. The wall, the castle of his mind now, all of the doors have been opened, they've been ripped off, the doors, the hinges are even taken off and anything at any time comes in. So James says the first step is we are lured away by our desires. He says the second step is that we then sin.
There's a third step that James gives and it says it leads to death. You'll notice verse 15, when desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin and when sin is fully grown, it brings forth death. Now the word death is used in the Bible in many different ways, sometimes physical death, the separation of the soul and body, spiritual death, which is the separation of the soul from God, it's used in that way. And then there's also a deadness, sometimes it is used in that way as well. The person becomes dead. There's that verse that the apostle Paul has in Timothy which says, he who lives in pleasure, she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives. There's a certain numbness, there's a certain deadness that comes now as the result of sin and how tragic that is.
And what does the person do in the midst of that? He now begins to see his sin a little bit more clearly and all the condemnation that he has ever thought of is heaped upon him. And the devil who inspired him and cooperated with him in doing the deed, the devil now returns in an entirely different role as an accuser. What kind of a Christian are you? You call yourself a Christian and look at what you just did. You are scum. If you think that God still loves you, you're totally wrong.
You might as well continue down this path. And who are you that you should say that you love God and on and on and on. So all of this condemnation brings death. And what does the person do? I'll tell you what he does. He begins to make promises. He promises God, Oh God, I promise you that I'll never do this again. If there's anyone else who finds out about it, he promises that this will be the last time that he will indeed not do this again. He is overwhelmed by his guilt in his deadness, but he will do it again and he'll do it again and again because he does not understand the depth of his need. He is thinking that by making a promise he's going to be delivered, but you need something more than your own vow and your own promise when you are in that pit. And so the promise is made, but the problem is it will be repeated, maybe more secretly, but you can't get out of that pit just by saying, I'm going to promise it's going to be different from now on. And so that is the analysis as to what happens, especially when we struggle with that which is closest to us, namely our sexuality. Maybe I can put it this way. When I was out in the farm and we had a gas can, it was always said, don't ever light a match near a gas can because you know the fumes might actually light up and the gas can might explode. You and I have within us flammable material and all that you really need is that match to go off.
All that you need is that outer stimuli and the traitor within is willing to open the gates to the enemy without and pretty soon you're carried away almost into another world, all fully justified until you see sin as it is. And then you wonder what to do. Well, where do we go from here?
What is the answer? You know that in every one of these series of messages, or I should say in every message, I give you an assignment. Last time the assignment was to detox from the media for three consecutive days.
Could I ask a question? How many of you did that? How many of you detoxed? You know, quite a few. I've gotten some very good testimonies about people who say how freeing it is to detox from the media.
Let me ask you another question. Did the world go on okay without you knowing about what was happening? Is there any problem with you detoxing from television, from movies?
I think that everything carried on. I detoxed this week. I detoxed the previous week.
And you know, I'm beginning to like this detox idea to separate us from the media. That was last time. What is the assignment this time? I'm going to give it to you in a moment, but your Bibles are open to the book of James. Would you now turn to James chapter 4? James chapter 4, where I believe that James now gives us an answer to what we have talked about. In James chapter 4, and I wish we had time to read the beginning of the chapter, but we're going to jump in after a couple of verses.
I'm in verse 6 actually. Therefore it says, oh I should begin by saying he gives more grace. To you today who are struggling with sin and you have repeatedly made promises that you have broken and you think there is no help, please notice this. He gives more grace. There's more grace in God's heart than sin in your past.
But look at this. He gives more grace. And God is opposed to the proud. Do you know that the Greek word really means God is at war with a proud? Why is it that so many people still continue to struggle with sin?
They go places where they shouldn't go and they swear it off and do it again. God wants to humble them because God is at war with a proud. You're a proud person. God is not on your side until you are humbled. But he does give grace to the humble.
And you know my friend, this is Pastor Lutzer. I have to say that all of us struggle with pride. All of us know how pride can ensnare us. But I've always prayed that God would give us the grace to be humble. That is to say, to recognize that everything that we do is from him.
There's nothing that we have not received. Let me ask you a question. Were you there when they crucified our Lord? You know we sing that every Easter, don't we? And as a child, I used to wonder, was I there?
I thought to myself, of course I wasn't. Well, as I began to study theology, I began to realize that of course I was there. It was there on the cross that Jesus Christ bore my sin. It is there that he bore what we deserved and he redeemed us. If we weren't there, we would not be saved. I'm so glad that I have the opportunity of sharing with you my heart in a book I've written entitled, Cries from the Cross, a Journey into the Heart of Jesus.
At the end of the day, the most important thing that we can do is to understand the cross and the sayings that Jesus Christ gave from the cross. For a gift of any amount, this resource can be yours. Hope that you have a pen or pencil handy. You can go to rtwoffer.com. That's rtwoffer.com, or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. Ask for the book, Cries from the Cross, a Journey into the Heart of Jesus. And thanks in advance for helping us as we get the gospel to so many.
Go to rtwoffer.com or pick up the phone right now and call us at 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you find God's roadmap for your race of life. In any battle there can be no victory without a good strategy. Erwin Lutzer is giving us proactive steps we can take to break the stranglehold the media and the internet have on us. Next time on Running to Win, we'll find three such steps in the fourth chapter of the book of James. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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