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.
After he was introduced he took the podium and asked the question, “How many of you pastors have some sort of boundaries when it comes to counseling members of the opposite sex? For instance, you won’t counsel a woman alone or with the door of your office shut or something like that?”
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.” He continued, “The only real safeguard is a strong relationship with Jesus Christ and a strong relationship with your wife. Everything else is just window dressing.”
As he continued I couldn’t help but remember the Apostle Paul’s warning to the Colossian believers, “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” Colossians 2:20-23.
The “Do not rules” do not and cannot rule over lust. As a matter of fact “they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” If anything these rules become an aphrodisiac which makes the temptation at hand even harder to resist.
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 that erupted from the cross and the empty tomb 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 Jesus we will have the strength we need to walk in victory over moral compromise.
I still won’t counsel a woman alone. Nor will I drive in a car alone with a member of the opposite sex. But I refuse to put my trust in these safeguards to keep me from giving into lust. Only Jesus is strong enough to do that.