As a traveling evangelist I'm on the road...a lot. With all the headlines of Christian influencers, Hollywood actors and political leaders falling morally I'm reminded again and again of the importance of relentlessly guarding my sexual purity.
Over the years I've developed a short list of 5 do's and don'ts that help me do just that. Perhaps this list will help you as well.
DO: Have trusted friends hold you accountable and ask tough questions.
Zane Black, Doug Holliday and Dave Gibson are three ministry leaders who hold me accountable and have carte blanche to ask me any question at any time (and they often do!). These questions can range from my thought life to road habits to marriage strength to time spent with God to whatever. They ask me hard questions and I ask them. We are sworn to secrecy and honesty.
As James 5:16 reminds us, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed." This verse doesn't tell us to confess all our sins to everyone but we should have at least some fellow believers who know all of our struggles and can help us walk in moral and sexual purity.
DON'T: Be stupid and put yourself in a situation that can lead to a situation.
From driving in a car with a member of the opposite sex alone to other traveling/counselling protocols I'm pretty meticulous about whatever situation I'm in. Why? Because innocent situations can lead to tempting situations pretty darn quickly!
I once asked my friend Danny Oertli (a fellow frequent traveller) if he had ever been a situation where he was tempted to compromise with someone. He said no. Then he said something I'll never forget. He said, "I think the guys who get into those kinds of situations, want to get into those kinds of situations."
DO: Cultivate a closer and closer relationship with your spouse.
If you're married (not all Christian leaders are) then make sure you are growing closer and closer to your spouse on every level (spiritually, emotionally and physically.) Often times moral falls are preceded by marriage fails, with disillusioned spouses looking for love in all the wrong places.
Marriage is like a dance. Some are waltzes and others are tangos. My marriage has always been a tango with both of us battling to lead ("You lead. No I lead. Now dance!") This led to our first several years of marriage being, shall we say, a bad night on the dance floor. But now our marriage is more like Arnold and Jamie Lee at the end of True Lies. And the dance is working because, for 27 years we have been working at it.
I can honestly say that I'm closer to my wife now than ever before and my wife can say the same thing about me (I just asked her!). A marriage that lasts keeps moving in the right direction and becomes stronger over the years, lessening the possibility of a moral meltdown.
DON'T: Trust too much in the rules above to keep you from moral failure.
I’ll never forget when I was a young pastor at a church in Denver and running what was then a brand new ministry Dare 2 Share. Somebody paid for me to go to a small pastor’s conference in Colorado Springs. Little did I know that God would use this conference, and the man speaking at it, to impact my life in a big way.
The speaker was an expert at counseling struggling pastors. He had shepherded hundreds of spiritual shepherds from all across America, many of whom had fallen into sexual immorality of some sort or another. He was at this conference to help pastors fight against the insidious enemy called “lust” and to perserve the integrity of their lives and the pulpits they preach from on a weekly basis.
I looked around the auditorium of two hundred or so pastors to see two hundred or so hands raised. Mine was raised too. I had always taken measures as a young, married pastor to make sure I was never in a situation where temptation could overtake me or that, well, just plain looked bad. And I was in good company. The men of God who surrounded me were just as concerned with their own personal piety and purity as I was.
That’s why I was shocked and rocked to hear the speaker say, “I’ve counseled hundreds of pastors all across America who have fallen into sexual sin and every single one of them had safeguards and boundaries in place.” It felt like the speaker had taken a stun gun and shot us all square in the chest. Even the crickets were convicted and quiet.
He continued, “Here’s the problem gentlemen, you can have all the safeguards you want. You can choose not to counsel a woman alone and refuse to be in a car by yourself with a member of the opposite sex. But LUST WILL PICK A LOCK. Lust will find a way to work around the safeguard and feed its ravenous hunger for satisfaction.”
Have your do's and don'ts but don't trust in them. As Colossians 2:20-23 reminds us, "Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!'? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”
So what is our hope in being victorious over lust if safeguards can’t ultimately provide it? Colossians 3:1-2 provides the answer, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
Sure, lust will pick a lock, but the power of God via the Holy Spirit is available to us when we rivet our eyes onto the resurrected and enthroned Christ. As we learn to walk in a moment by moment declaration of dependence on the Holy Spirit we'll have the strength we need to walk in victory over sexual sin.
I still won’t counsel a woman alone. Nor will I drive in a car alone with a member of the opposite sex. And, by God's grace, I'm working to make my marriage stronger and stronger. But I refuse to put my trust in these safeguards to keep me from giving into sexual compromise. Only Jesus is strong enough to do that.
Let's refuse to become another devastating headline and choose to finish our race well!