“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”
2 Timothy 2:22
As I began a new biblical counseling class today, I had the opportunity to share with the professor my reasons for choosing to study at the Master’s College. It didn’t take me long to summarize my response in two basic points:
- The school’s stand on the sufficiency of Scripture
- John MacArthur
For those who know me well, it’s no secret that John MacArthur occupies a place of high esteem in my life. In Heaven, I have great plans to hang out with the prophet Elijah, John MacArthur, and Keith Green, but I suppose I’ll have to wait to see exactly how that turns out. Known for his careful exposition of the Scriptures, Dr. MacArthur has been faithfully “unleashing the truth one verse at a time” for over forty years as pastor of Grace Community Church in southern California. As president of the Master’s College, he has ensured that the academics are centered around the authority and supremacy of God’s Word, and it was through his leadership that the school’s psychology program was replaced by the biblical counseling program of which I am now a part.
This past Sunday, as a visitor at Dr. MacArthur’s church, I was given a copy of one of his beautiful devotional books Daily Readings from the Life of Christ. In the book, he includes the following reflection on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, which challenges us to keep our lives pure from the inside out:
Desire, The Root Sin of Adultery
You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery”; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
The Seventh Commandment protects the sanctity of marriage, and anyone who relies on external righteousness to keep it is prone to break it. Just as anger equals murder, lustful desire equals adultery.
In Jesus’ admonition, “looks” indicates intentional and repeated gazing. Therefore He means purposeful looking that arouses lust. In contemporary terms, it condemns a man who sees an X-rated movie, watches a salacious television show, or visits pornographic websites. It encompasses any thought or action done to arouse sexual desire.
Jesus is not referring to accidental exposure to sexual temptation. It is no sin if a man looks away from a provocative scene. It is the continued look that Christ condemns, because that demonstrates an adulterous heart. And by inference this prohibition would apply to women also, who must not gaze at men or dress in seductive ways to elicit stares.
In earliest redemptive history, Job understood these principles: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?…If my step has turned from the way, or my heart followed my eyes, or if any spot has stuck to my hands, let me sow and another eat, and let my crops be uprooted” (Job 31:1, 7-8).
If the adulterous heart gives in to temptation, the godly heart will protect itself, praying, “Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, and revive me in Your ways. Establish Your word to Your servant, as that which produces reverence for You” (Ps. 119:37-38; cf. 2 Tim. 2:22).
What could replace your next lustful thought or glance? Instead of focusing on what God has graciously restricted, what blessings, privileges, and freedoms can capture your attention instead?
Illustration: Asif Akbar