Thursday, December 3, 2009

How to Avoid Fatal Attractions by Rick Warren

Pastor, it breaks my heart to see ministries ruined by unfaithfulness. Unchecked lust in the life of a pastor is incredibly destructive to the ministry of the Church. You and I are human. We're subject to the same temptations everyone else is. But sexual sins can be fatal to a ministry. Here are six actions to remember as you battle "fatal attractions."

1. Make a commitment to keep God's standards.
You've got to be willing to do what the Bible says. Psalm 119:9 (NIV) says, "How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word." There are a lot of places you can look for values and standards to base your decisions on: self-help books, television, movies. But, pastor, if you don't want to fall victim to a fatal attraction, you must decide once and for all to make a commitment to keep God's standards revealed in his instruction manual, the Bible.It won't lead you wrong.

God says we're to enjoy sex within the context of marriage. Some people get confused on this point. They wonder why God restricts their freedom if he loves them. But as a parent, you wouldn't let your children do whatever they want. Why? We love our kids. We want to protect them. Our rules are for their good. God's rules are for our good, too. Decide today that you'll obey God's truth or none of the other steps will matter.

2. Maintain your marriage.
If you want a strong marriage, you've got to maintain it. You need to rekindle the romance. Proverbs 5:18-19 (TLB) says, "Rejoice in your wife. Let her charms and tender embrace satisfy you. Let her love alone fill you with delight."

The Bible tells us to "rejoice" in our wife, and then "be satisfied." In other words, don't compare your spouse. There's no such thing as a perfect mate. The grass is not greener on the other side of the fence; it's greener where you water it. The problem is in most married people have no spontaneity in their love life. There's boredom in the bedroom.

While you're married, you will be attracted to other people. But God says redirect that attraction toward your mate. Rejoice in your own mate.

3. Manage your mind.
You need to understand how temptation works. James 1:14-15 (TLB) says, "Temptation is the pull of our own evil thoughts and wishes. These...thoughts lead to evil actions." The battle starts in the mind. If Satan gets your attention, then he gets your feelings. If he gets your feelings, then he gets your actions. Some say, "I'd never do this. I'm just dreaming about it." Who are you kidding?

Thoughts determine feelings, and feelings determine actions. The key to avoiding sexual temptations is to control your thoughts. Jesus said in Matthew 5:28, "Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Adultery starts in the head before it gets to the bed.

Lust isn't physical attraction. It isn't being aroused. That's just being human. You see a nice-looking person and you're attracted. Lust is the desire to possess. In other words, "If I could, I would." It's not the initial feelings and reactions. That's just part of humanity. God gave those instincts to you, but you must manage them.

4. Monitor your media intake.
We are in a sex-saturated society. We are bombarded by visual and verbal stimulation every moment of the day. In advertising, sex sells everything from bingo to batteries to bananas. Lust is big business. Most "love" songs are really lust songs. You pick up a magazine or a novel - and it's everywhere.

Studies have shown that the vast majority of sex on television is between people who aren't married. Every time you watch these escapades, your guard drops a bit. The Bible says that the eye is the gate to the soul. Matthew 6:22-23 (NIV) says, "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness." What you see is what you become.

If you're serious about dealing with sexual temptations, you're going to have to give up about 80 percent of the movies that are out there today. Some of you are saying, "I can watch that stuff. It doesn't affect me." Don't believe it. 2 Timothy 2:22 (NLT) says, "Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts."

If you're sitting in a movie and realize you've made a mistake, get up and walk out. If you put in a DVD and realize it's not something you should watch, don't watch it. I've walked out of a lot of movies, changed the channel on a lot of TV shows, and returned a number of PG videos. If you're serious about dealing with this issue, you've got to monitor your media intake.

5. Minimize the opportunities for temptation.
If you want to avoid a fatal attraction, don't allow yourself to be in situations where it happens. Matthew 6:41 (GNB) says,"Keep watch, and pray so that you will not fall into temptation." Jesus gives two preventative measures in this verse: keep watch and pray.

"Keep watch" means be alert and wise. Know the situations that tempt you so you can stay away from them. Are you aware of what trips you up? One area that trips up many people today is that couples spend much less time together than ever before. With both men and women working, and both working long hours and traveling, our quality time - or quantity time - is lower than ever. If you typically struggle when you or your spouse is out of town, then maybe you need to limit the amount of time you are away from one another.

Maybe for you it's a certain set of friends that always lead you down the wrong path. It's simple. Stay away. Friends that lead you to lust after someone who is not your spouse aren't really friends.

6. Magnify the consequences.
You need to ask yourself, "Is this worth it?" Temptation is incredibly short-sighted. There are enormous consequences to breaking God's laws. Pastor, I'm sure you've heard the hurtful cries from spouses hurt by unfaithfulness. You should understand this. When we break God's laws, they break us. It always causes pain, bitterness, and masses of problems. It's just not worth it.

James 1:12 (NIV) says, "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." I want one of those victor crowns someday. He's saying, "Deny the lesser to gain the greater."

I have only "known" one woman in my life - my wife. By the grace of God I intend to be faithful to her the rest of my life. Why? I love Jesus Christ, and I owe everything I have to him. To hurt him is unbearable. Second, I love my wife and kids. I cannot bear the thought of hurting them. But also, I fear the wrath of God. Unfaithfulness is a serious issue with God. The Bible says in Proverbs 16:6, "The man who fears the Lord shall avoid evil." That's a healthy fear. God does not let people get away with lust and unfaithfulness. Why? He loves us too much to let unfaithfulness destroy our relationship.

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