I'm down in Bristol this weekend visiting the family and as is usual for a Sunday morning they are out at church while I do the Sunday roast. I was thinking last night actually I should find a good church to attend nearby because I do miss the chance of being in awesome worship and preaching even on a weekend away. Anyway that's an aside. As usual I have had some excellent conversations with my mum and dad. I love them so much for being prepared to listen to their oldest son's latest theological rantings and ramblings!
We got onto talking about the mutilation of limbs as a possible sin deterrent! Dad and I talked through the implications of taking this verse as seriously as some church pastors seem to have us go and he himself said that it's interesting you don't see many church leaders hobbling around with no legs or no arms or eyeless! What then does this verse mean? We talked through the question is there still a responsibility on us (despite the glory of the Cross) to take some radical action to try and stop sinning.
For example Dad proposed that the prostitute who was dragged to Jesus and touched by His grace would have been so scared by the almost-stoning she received that she would have stopped being a prostitute because of that. I respectfully disagreed. I feel strongly that as a Jewess she would have known that she was under threat of the death penalty daily for her actions. If anything she would have felt that what happened that day could have given her a free pass to carry on sinning. "Anyone without sin throw the first stone, He said! Hands off me! You aren't without sin so I can do what I like!". But I don't believe that from that day on she ever was involved in prostitution again. Why? Because Jesus touched her with grace and said "Go and sin no more".
Was that statement an angry command; "I've saved your ass this time - don't do it again you slutty woman?". Not at all. I believe that in that statement there was an empowerment from on high conducting the awesome radically life-transforming glory of grace to her. Once you have seen the tender, loving, intimate eyes of Jesus Christ and heard Him say to you; "Sin no more". Then you won't want to sin! It will be the furthest thing from your mind! Surely that account in the New Testament is the embodiment of "Walk in the Spirit and you will NOT fulfill the lusts of the flesh".
But that question of my Dad's - "Shouldn't we still be doing something radical ourselves to stop sinning?" stuck with me. And it was brought home this morning because I logged on to check my mails and was informed that I was being watched by something called "Covenant Eyes". Intrigued I investigated further and found out exactly was watching my every move. There was something called a "Panic Button" that I pressed (I've never been able to resist investigating interesting things"). I was informed that unless I cancelled the operation within 10 seconds then all internet activity would be cut off and I would have to ring a US number to get reconnected! I thought it would be quite funny to let that happen but cancelled it anyway.
Clearly "Covenant Eyes" is a spy-ware programme that can be installed to monitor activity and hopefully end looking at inappropriate websites such as pornography. I can't quite figure out though who decides what is "inappropriate" and where the line is drawn. And what is more interesting is the disagreements and comments from mainly men - some who have found this programme helpful to curb their activities - and others who feel it is an intrusion. Here's one comment;
"Covenant Eyes has been so helpful to me. the only ones who do not want it up are those who are enslaved to porn and the devil. Repent from adultery and sex outside of marraige or you will end up in the lake of fire. Turn to jesus for salvation and he will enliven your spirit and cause you to hate the sin you once loved and love the righteousness you once hated. He can do it for you, and programs like covenant eyes can help in your battle against sin".
Sounds pretty similar to this guy who calls Ellen Degeneres a sexual pervert doesn't it?
Another guy I read was vigorously defending this programme and said this;
"I pay for my wife to receive a full report of anything that I see on the internet. Not only does it keep me from visiting trashy sites, it gives her the psychological benefit of knowing that I don't. That is not weird ... I choose to give my wife certain information".
Well - sorry but that does seem a trifle weird to me. This man pays a considerable amount per year to send a report to his wife who lives in the same house - why can't he simply tell her verbally? "I choose to give my wife certain information". Why doesn't he "choose" to simply show her the "history" page? And I know - "history" pages can be wiped. But if he can "choose" to send this report whether he likes it or not then why can't he make the choice to not wipe the history or make the choice to tell her what he has done? I think this man doesn't want to stop looking at pornography and the only way he can make this "choice" is to remove the choice of telling her or not.
So what do I think? Am I saying pornography is okay? No - of course I am not. I spent most of my university years bound up with it. What I am thinking through is whether "Covenant Eyes" is really the best way to go about dealing radically with this form of sinful activity. Having spent four years having a love-hate relationship with pornography - AND having tried every form of radical activity I could think of, I think that;
"Covenant Eyes" is only as good as your desire NOT to look at pornography and the support of the appointed "accountability partner".
If you have any internet experience at all then it won't be hard to skip round some of the filters set up or even disable it. A simple "Google" search showed that some people have already developed downloadable programmes that can wipe any such spy-ware programme off their computers without the "accountability partner" even knowing it.
Or even if pornography on the internet is taken away from the person through this "programme" - then there are still the age-old magazines that can be brought or the X-rated telephone calls that can be made. Or even the clothing catalogues that so many teenage boys resort to. There will always be the temptation of pornography with us. Do I applaud the desire to stop that? Yes. Do I think there's a much cheaper and more effective way to do it? YES!
"WALK IN THE SPIRIT AND YOU WILL NOT FULFILL THE LUSTS OF THE FLESH".
It doesn't say "you may not" or "you will find it easier not to". It says "YOU WILL NOT". Enoch is one of my favourite Bible characters mainly because he demonstrates "walking with God". And suddenly he walked with God and he "was not". Would anyone think he was tempted to lust or use pornography? I highly doubt it - there's not a hope if you are walking with God constantly. Let me say again - I applaud the battle against sinful practices. I really do. But there is a BETTER way!
Stop writing books on lust Joshua Harris. Start preaching on "how to walk in the Spirit". Start demonstrating a life of walking in God encounters and in the Spirit. It's far more than simply "tongues and prophecy" as sadly so many so-called "charismatic" churches have reduced it to. It's all about the Presence and the glory of God! When the Presence and glory of God falls upon you as a person - sin is the furthest thing from your mind. I know something about that too. Not enough sadly - which is why I still sin. But I've tasted it in Hong Kong and other times in my life!
Learn how to walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Sorry. But that's Scripture - the Word of God. And it's that simple. And it's that easy! So let's get learning what it is to walk in the Spirit and how to do it - and all these books, CD's and computer programmes will be redundant!