Does anyone else have this experience…when you’re driving, and you look away from the road, do you start heading in the direction you’re looking, without trying to? I have had that happen often and have learned not to look away for long, or else I’ll end up in a ditch. I’ve had to be especially careful since we moved to TN: the hilliness makes for some steep drop-offs, and not all of them have guard rails. In fact, I was so afraid of veering off the edge of the road when we first moved here, that I kept a close eye on the edge, only to find myself drifting that way. Or I’d be so afraid of getting too close to the edge that I’d overcompensate and drift toward the lane of oncoming traffic. I had to learn to keep my eyes on the road ahead with only occasional glances in other directions. Of course, drivers do have to keep an eye out for other cars, pedestrians, cats and dogs (and ever deer in some places here), traffic lights, potential trouble situations, etc., but by and large, our eyes have to look straight out in front to keep us safely where we are supposed to be on the road.
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
I think the same holds true spiritually. We do have to watch out for potential dangers, we have to be aware of the “don’ts” in the Bible, we have to guard against temptation. But there is danger in a continual focus that direction. Solomon, who warned many times in Proverbs against strange women, ultimately had his heart turned away from the Lord by multiple wives and concubines. It is sadly not unusual for a preacher who majors often on immorality to succumb to temptation in that area. I remember reading in a biography of some famous preacher from years ago (unfortunately, I can’t remember which one) the advice that young people should have their purity meetings and then move on to something else. I don’t know what they did at purity meetings – I assume they heard preaching about it and then were encouraged to make their vows. But I thought the advice not to linger long on that one area, but to move on to the larger focus of the Christian life, was wise.
This applies in other areas besides morality. If I stare at a chocolate cake while trying to resist it, I am likely to fail. In one missionary autobiography, the author wrote that she struggled for years to truly love other people, and as long as she looked at herself and and her lack of love, she was defeated. But when she began instead to focus on God’s love for her, then gradually He enabled her to truly love others.
We’re told in Scripture not only to “flee also youthful lusts” but also to “follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (II Timothy 2:22); “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (I Timothy 6:11). It is not enough just to try to avoid doing wrong: we need to actively pursue what is right.
Ultimately we are changed more and more into His image by beholding Him in His Word and in our prayer time. II Corinthians 3:18 says, But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;
who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.