Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: When it comes to sinful behavior, how close can we get? That’s the wrong question, according to Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Why are we so prone to defend choices that take us right to the edge of sin? Why are we so reluctant to make radical choices to protect our hearts and our minds from sin?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, October 18.

You will face temptation today. You can’t always avoid it, but you can put some guardrails in place to avoid some temptation and to help you say no to it. We’ll get some tips on avoiding the destructiveness of sin as Nancy continues in a series called Seeking Him: Discovering the Joy of Personal Revival.

Nancy: We’ve been talking about the process of sanctification and how mortification is an important part of that process—putting to death our sinful, fleshly desires and appetites.

Mortification involves more than just getting rid of things that are inherently sinful. That goes without saying, but mortification also suggests the willingness to eliminate influences in our lives that may not be sinful in and of themselves but that could fuel or feed unholy desires, thoughts, behaviors, and thereby lead us into sin.

It means cutting off every possible means to sin. The practical illustration that just comes to mind is this: If I’m on a diet, I don’t want to stock up my house or my kitchen with chocolate and chips and things that are going to tempt me to go off my diet.

I could say, “I’m going to buy those things and just have them there so I can look at them.” Well, if I put them there to look at them, I’m going to be tempted to eat them when I shouldn’t.

The apostle Paul put it this way in Romans 13:14, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” I want to focus on that little phrase “make no provision for the flesh.”

Let me stop here to address something that I believe is a huge issue among believers today. It is no big surprise to me to see how many professing Christians struggle with lust and with sexual sin—this is not just a men’s issue.

This is also a women’s issue today—they fall into immoral relationships. It’s no surprise to me to see how often that happens when I learn about things like their entertainment choices: the books and magazines they read, the music they listen to, the movies they watch. I want to say to you women, if you are spending time reading most romance novels or most women’s magazine, you are setting yourself up for moral temptation—if not failure.

Anyone who is inviting the secular, sensual culture through movies and other forms of entertainment that feature sexual innuendos, suggestive immoral scenes, and provocatively dressed women is going to struggle morally.

You can count on it. Remember, this is not only for yourselves but for your children. One woman said to me before this session, “This is hard because all of our children’s friends are doing all this stuff, and they say, ‘But we’re so weird.’”

I said, “Your children will rise up and call you blessed” (Proverbs 31:28, paraphrase). You need to do this with grace and with love, with tenderness, with wisdom and discernment about your timing, but it’s important that you guard not only your own heart but your children’s hearts.

I’m going to be really blunt here. I have no doubt that I could get drawn into committing emotional, if not physical, adultery if I do not continually guard my heart—and you could too.

I’m not—and never will be—so spiritual as to be immune to sexual sin or just about any other kind of sin. That’s why as part of my battle plan I have resolved not to expose myself to entertainment or to other influences that put immorality in a favorable light or could fuel unholy desires.

You say, “You must be really spiritual that you don’t like that stuff.” No! The fact is that I’m afraid I might enjoy it, and that’s why I don’t want it in my house. I don’t want it in my mind because I feel like I’m weak. I’m vulnerable. My heart could be drawn into those things. That’s why I determined, by God’s grace, not to allow myself to get into situations where I could be tempted to sin morally—whether emotionally, mentally, or physically.

Some of you have heard me say this before, but every time I say it on Revive Our Hearts, people come back and thank me, so I’m going to say it again. That is why for me, what that means—I’m not telling it what it means for you—but for me, it means no meetings alone with married men behind closed doors.

I figure if you’re never alone with a married person of the opposite sex (who is not your mate), you will never have an affair. You say, “Well, that just seems extreme.” Listen, the rest of the world isn’t concerned about being holy—but, I am.

That matters to me. Let me say, by the way, your marriage matters to me, too, and that’s one of the reasons I’m not going to be alone in a room with your husband—not because I don’t trust him.

I don’t trust me; I don’t trust him; I don’t trust the devil; I don’t trust my flesh. I don’t want to make provision for my flesh—that means practically that I don’t travel or have meals alone with married men.

It means that I don’t have personal email exchanges with men, unless their wife is a part of the process and is being copied on the email. It means that if I have a working relationship with married men, as they develop into friendships, I involve the presence and participation of their wives.

That is protection. It’s not extreme. It’s just smart. It’s not making provision for my flesh. Those guardrails are not a burden to me. They’ve been a protection. They’ve been a blessing! They have spared me from a whole lot of temptations that otherwise might easily have drawn my heart away from loving Christ. In today’s world those measures probably seem unrealistic—probably seem excessive—even to many Christians.

But you and I are not the rest of the world. You are saints, and that’s why we have to be serious about mortifying—putting to death our sinful flesh and anything and everything that feeds our flesh. I know that when we talk about this the word legalistic will probably surface, but I want to know, why are we so prone to defend choices that take us right to the edge of sin?

Why are we so reluctant to make radical choices to protect our hearts and our minds from sin? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his hearers to be ruthless in cutting off every avenue and enticement to sin. Jesus said, “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matthew 5:30).

Some of the areas where you need to practice mortification—where you need to be careful about not making provision for your flesh—might be different for you than for they are for me. For example, overeating—the biblical term is gluttony—has been a life-long besetting sin for me. I am continually having to mortify my flesh in relation to my physical appetite for food.

It’s not wrong to eat, but it is wrong to overeat. That is an area where I continually have to be conscious of mortifying my flesh. If you can’t control your eating habits, do what I’ve done: Ask a friend or a family member to help hold you accountable for what you eat and when, or deny your flesh by fasting periodically.

Drunkenness isn’t a temptation that I struggle with, but if that is an area where you are vulnerable—and I’m finding today that many Christians are (far more than you would imagine)—mortify those desires by staying away from bars. Don’t allow yourself to hang out with people who drink. Cut off every opportunity and occasion to abuse alcohol. Purpose in your heart to stay away from it. Don’t think you can handle just one drink.

If computer games are constantly calling your name and consuming your time—as I’ve found out in some periods of time in my life that this started to happen, causing me to lose my hunger and thirst for righteousness. Do what I did. Ask a godly friend to hold you accountable for how much time you spend playing some of those games. Or you may need to give them up all together if you want to rekindle your love and your hunger and your desire for God.

If you’re being lured, as many, many, many Christian women are into unwholesome relationships over the Internet, establish parameters for your computer use that will make it difficult for you to keep sinning. Put your computer in the family room where everyone can see the screen. You say, “No! Then they would see what I’m doing!” That is the point! Establish restrictions against using your computer when you’re alone or late at night.

I don’t watch TV when I’m alone because I know I have to mortify my flesh in that area. If you need to do it with your computer, then do it! If necessary, get rid of your Internet service or your satellite or cable service. Do whatever you have to do to mortify the sinful appetites and lusts of your flesh.

If romantic movies make you discontent with your singleness or dissatisfied with your mate or if they fuel sexual fantasies in your mind, don’t watch them! Don’t try and handle it. Don’t watch them. If certain magazines or books plant less than holy thoughts and desires and images in your mind, drop your subscription. Throw away the books.

If you’re tempted to become physically intimate with the person you’re dating, don’t single date. If you have to, take your sister or friend or take your mother with you. If you’ve already violated biblical standards for that relationship, for purity, then you probably need to break it off completely.

You say, “That’s tough.” You’re right. It is. The question is: How serious are you about wanting to be pure? If holiness matters to you, you will be willing to do whatever you have to do to guard your heart and to protect yourself and the others from sinning against God.

If you’re being emotionally drawn to a married coworker or fellow church member of the opposite sex or a counselor that you’re seeing—and yes, that happens—get out of the situation. Request a transfer. Quit your job. If you have to, change churches. Cancel your next appointment with that counselor. Find a biblical counselor of the same sex or a married couple who will counsel together with you.

Don’t make provision for your flesh. One woman wrote our ministry and shared that because of her desire to be holy, she actually had to change pediatricians because she had found herself becoming attracted to her children’s doctor and looking forward to appointments so she could be with him. So she mortified her flesh. She said, “I’m not going to make provision for my flesh.”

I’m talking about being purposeful and intentional in this battle against sin and removing yourself from anything that might fuel your appetite for sin or provide an inducement, an opportunity, or an occasion for you to sin. I’m talking about putting away anything that dulls your spiritual sensitivity or your love for Christ and holiness. Ladies, I’m dead serious about this, and you need to be as well.

What else do you think Jesus meant when He said, “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away,” if He wasn’t talking about taking extreme measures when necessary to avoid sinning?

At first this whole process of mortification can sound like it’s really difficult and really distasteful. At times we enjoy our sin too much to want to let it go. We think we’ll be miserable if we let it go. The truth is that those fleshly desires and deeds to which we cling will keep us from enjoying the life for which we were created. Ultimately, those things will place us in bondage and misery.

Are there any ways that you are making provision for your flesh? Are you involved in any appetites or practices that could increase your appetite for sin? Is there any source of temptation you’re holding onto? Are you currently in any situation that might diminish your resistance to sin? Is there anything that is dulling your spiritual sensitivity or diminishing your love for God and your desire for holiness?

I’m talking about entertainment choices, reading material, hobbies, places you go, friends you hang out with, items in your house, possessions, relationships. Is there a change you need to make in order not to make provision for your flesh? Is there a relationship you need to break off? Is there something you need to throw out or give away? Is there a tough choice you need to make?

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus,” Galatians five says, “have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (verse 24). That is why Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (NIV).

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back. Let me slip in and mention one way you can be perfecting holiness the way Nancy just described: Get a copy of her book, Holiness: The Heart God Purifies.

This is one of the most important studies you’ll ever embark on. Spend some time on this most important topic. Get a copy of Nancy’s helpful book at ReviveOurHearts.com, and learn more about holiness.

Nancy: A family I know was trying to sell their house and had it on the market for over a year. This is a family that leads very busy, active lives. At the time they had six children living at home of all ages and some were involved in youth group activities and all kinds of busy things. Sometimes they would go for weeks without anyone wanting to see the house. But then, all of a sudden, the realtor would call and say, “Can we show your house in 30 minutes?”

You can imagine the mad dash that would follow as the mom tried to get the house presentable. In those frantic, crisis moments, she became really adept at transforming her lived-in house with very normal kid clutter into a showcase home in record time. She would laugh to me as she would explain how she got creative about this. She learned how to stash laundry and dirty dishes and other out of place household items, in places that prospective buyers would be unlikely to look—like the clothes dryer.

She said, “They don’t look in there or in the back of the family suburban in the garage!” She would have dirty dishes taken from the sink into the back of the suburban. By the time the realtor arrived with the prospective buyer, the family was nowhere to be seen. The house was in tip-top shape. At least, that’s how it appeared. But you could only hope that no one would really look closely.

How would you feel if the doorbell rang tomorrow morning at eight o’clock, and you went to the door to discover that you had a surprise visit from distant relatives that you hadn’t seen in 15 years who were planning to stay for a week and were eager to have a tour of your house? Would you have to scramble to avoid embarrassment? I can tell you that if you came to my house today, I would have to scramble.

I didn’t make my bed this morning. I left books and papers related to this radio series all over the place, and I don’t think I’d want company to just drop by my house without at least a little notice today.

There are probably some closets and drawers you wouldn’t want to open unless you’ve just finished with your annual major cleaning. Chances are you’d be hoping your guests didn’t look too closely to see all the dust in out of the way places and sun streaming through streaked windows or cobwebs in corners.

Whether your house being ready for surprise guests is a high priority to you or not, as Christians, we’re called to maintain a life that can be toured by outsiders at any time without embarrassment. A commitment to holiness means having a life that’s ready for company—a life that’s open for inspection and that can stand up to scrutiny, not just in the obvious things, but also in the hidden places where most people might not think to look.

Most Christians have learned how to do a quick pick-up in their lives whenever other people come around to take a look. We go to church. We know how to make the family and ourselves look just right when we have to be on public display. We’ve learned how to keep up a good appearance and to look okay on the outside. We know how to look and act clean when we want to leave a good impression on someone.

But here’s the real test. What would other people discover if they took a closer look at our lives? What would they find if they started opening the closets and the drawers of our lives?

Galatians chapter five is one of several listings in the New Testament of sins—sins of the flesh and sins of the spirit. It is interesting in these lists found in Scripture how we find outward sins along with sins of the heart—all in the same list.

Listen, for example, to Galatians 5: 19, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery [and then right in that same list], enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy [and then goes right back to], drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (verses 19-21a).

In that list God doesn’t make any distinction. He sees them as the same. Some of those particular sins are very obvious. If you’re having fits of rage or living in an obviously immoral or adulterous lifestyle, that’s very obvious. But God says in the same category that the works of the flesh are also anger, jealousy, envy, and a divisive spirit—things that are more related to thoughts and motives. God puts them in the same category as these outward sins that we would all agree are terrible.

So what if you’ve never committed physical adultery but you entertain lustful thoughts about someone else’s mate or sexual fantasizing? Now, I will say there is a sense in which to commit the act has more serious consequences than to have the thought, but we can’t pride ourselves on being holy just because we don’t do the act, if our hearts are committing the act.

So what if you don’t commit acts of physical violence but you harbor hatred toward those who have harmed you? You mentally assassinate them. You emotionally cut them off.

So what if you wouldn’t even consider getting drunk, never have, never would, but you are out of control when it comes to food or shopping or some other “Okay for Christians” addiction?

It’s the heart. You home school your kids. You don’t let them watch trash on television. You’re inside your church every time the doors are open. You do the right things. You’re considered spiritual. You’re a Christian leader. You are considered good. People respect you. They look up to you, but your heart is filled with pride, jealousy, and anger. You are self-righteous. 

You can’t get along with someone else in your church because there has been some little issue that’s come between you, and you’ve never resolved it? Is this a sinful comparison? Do you see that all of these “acceptable” sins—these things that fill us as Christians and in our churches—we justify. Often we don’t even think twice about them; we don’t really think of them as sins.

Jesus said, “It really matters. It’s the heart of the matter that matters.” Because true holiness goes beyond our visible behavior and the parts of our lives that are known to others and includes those innermost parts of our hearts that only God can see.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back to pray. Each of us is tempted to make the outside look better than the inside. We all need to be reminded that holiness is a matter of the heart. Today’s helpful message is part of a series called Seeking Him: Discovering the Joy of Personal Revival.

It’s a twelve-week look at what it means to be revived. It means to have a new sense of holiness and obedience and to have a clear conscience and to offer full forgiveness. If that doesn’t describe you, would you discover the joy of personal revival?

Go through the Seeking Him Workbook on your own or with a group. These teachings from Nancy are available on DVD for your small group. Don’t miss this opportunity to be seeking Him. Find out more at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959. 

Tomorrow, don’t miss a chance to pray with wise, godly Christian leaders for revival and holiness. Now, let’s pray.

Nancy: O Father, I pray that You would help us to take seriously these issues of mortification and sanctification. As we pursue holiness, give us wisdom and discernment to know where we may be making provision for our flesh.

Help us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ; to be clothed in Him and His righteousness; to put away anything and everything that would dull our love for Him or diminish our sensitivity to sin.

Lord, help us to love holiness, to hate sinfulness, and to have an intimate love relationship with You. We are choosing to walk in the pathway of holiness. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scriptures are taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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