How to Have a Clean Thought Life in The New Year
Matthew 5:27-28; Psalm 119:9
Dr. Rogers’ powerful series “Building on the Rock,” based upon Jesus’ teachings in The Sermon on the Mount, gives us practical truths for building a foundation that cannot be shaken by the storms of this world.
During his ministry in Rome, the apostle Paul traveled on a road called “The Appian Way.” Built by the Romans, it’s still in better condition than some roadways in the world today. One of the reasons is that the Romans laid a deep foundation. In the same way, God has given us His Word as an instruction manual for building our lives on solid, stable ground.
You will find these are bedrock truths for practical living.
One of the challenges many struggle with today is keeping a clean thought life. In today’s cultural climate, it’s getting harder and harder to do.
1. Turn to Matthew chapter 5, verses 27-28, in the heart of The Sermon on the Mount:
“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery.’ But I say unto you that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his __________.
The Lord Jesus Christ is showing us the “heart” of the problem. The heart of the problem is our hearts.
In a previous study, we carefully examined what the Bible means by “heart.” If you missed it, you may want to look at it, for this study and that one are in many ways intertwined. The “heart” of man is the seat of our emotions and desires. To be happy in life, to be useful, we must be pure and be clean on the inside. We must develop a clean thought life.
It’s what is inside you that really counts. Someone has said,
“The child delights in what he has,
The youth delights in what he does,
The adult delights in what he is.
If we are to be mature Christians, it's far more important to be something than to have something or do something. We are to be pure.
2. Turn to 1 Peter 1:16:
Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
When Peter says “Because it is written,” what does he mean?
3. Turn to Leviticus 20:7. Write that verse here:
God says the same thing seven other times in the book of Leviticus alone. If God says something once, we should pay attention. How much more when He repeats it seven times?
4. In Leviticus God is establishing a new way to live for the people He brought out of Egypt, out of bondage—a way that would set them apart from all other people. God wanted a people for Himself—a unique people who would be pure and stand out from all others.
How is this like what the Lord Jesus was doing when He established His church on this earth?
Jesus wanted a people that would be a living, walking breathing example of Himself—His love, His character, His compassion, and yes, His holiness before a lost and dying world. In fact, the believers were first called “Christians” at Antioch—and “Christians” meant “little Christs.” How important it is that we should be a pure and holy people.
5. Back to the book of 1 Peter. Turn to 2:9:
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a __________ nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
We must be pure, inside and out. But you have to change the inside before you can change the outside. It's what's on the inside that motivates you. What you think determines what you do.
An impure mind is a mind trying to find contentment some other place. It belongs to a person who has bought into the devil’s lies that this is where the joy is, this is where the fulfillment is, this is where the riches are, and if you don't get this place and do these things then then you're going to miss out. My dear friend, you’re not going to miss out when you have the Lord Jesus Christ.
Some social scientists continue to try to maintain that what a person sees does not affect him. We know instinctively this isn’t true. If it were, why are Super Bowl ads running for $4 million per 30-second ad? If what people see doesn’t affect their decisions, a lot of money is being wasted.
Have you ever been driving and noticed a billboard with a juicy hamburger or a frosty cola and suddenly decided, “I’m hungry/thirsty!” We all have. Women’s magazines feature carefully crafted, slick ads featuring beautiful clothes. Why? So the reader will go out and buy those clothes! This costly effort is not in vain—people are moved to act upon what they see.
And Jesus knows that. So here in Matthew 5, our Lord speaks about what happens on the inside.
6. The Lord Jesus knows man’s heart. God created us—He knows us. That’s why Jesus says in our Matthew 5:28 passage,
But I say unto you that whosoever _____________ on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her _______________ in his _____________.
In America today we have reached the bottom of the garbage can as far as pornography is concerned. It assaults our senses in magazines, books, films released in movie theaters, on every television sitcom and drama—and now on the internet. Pervasive in every home, the internet is an open gateway for pornography.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH PORNOGRAPHY?
First, it is psychological poison. It poisons the mind.
Dr. Victor Cline, acclaimed marriage and family therapist and professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Utah, wrote in an extensive report*, Pornography’s Effects on Adults and Children (one every pastor, youth worker, Sunday School teacher and parent ought to read), that there are four downward steps in pornography. This is how the devil gets a claw in somebody’s brain.
1. There is an addiction effect. Pornography is addictive like a drug is addictive. The individual, and it's most often a male, gets hooked on pornography.
2. But it moves from addiction to escalation. Research has found that in time it takes more deviant behavior, more explicit materials, for the person to get the same stimulation. Just like a drug, he has to go deeper and deeper and move into more hard core pornography.
3. Then desensitization. You become desensitized. Dr. Cline found that what was originally shocking, seen originally as anti-social and depressing, becomes now acceptable, and the person is no longer shocked or offended by this material.
4. The fourth phase is acting out sexually. Almost invariably the individual is tempted and many times does act out what he/she sees. Now he may try to act that out with his partner, his wife, or sometimes other members of his family.
Secondly, pornography is a social sickness.
There are those who will tell you that pornography is a legitimate outlet to release tensions. If you believe that, you also believe that you can cure drug addicts with drugs, alcoholics with liquor, and put out a fire with gasoline.
Statistics now tell us that in America one out of every four baby girls will be sexually abused by an adult male. One baby boy in ten will be sexually abused by an adult male. Not everyone who reads pornography is a sex deviant. But every sex deviant reads it.
Thirdly, pornography causes domestic damage.
Homes are being torn apart by pornography. Psychiatrist Dr. Robert J. Stolard said, "Hostility is the essential dynamic of all pornography. If a man saturates his mind with pictures and stories of rape, torture, and murder, in connection with sex, how is he likely to treat his own wife? What will he do to his children?”
God intended the sex act to express love between a man and his wife. Any counselor can tell you the heartache and devastation to the home that has come through pornography.
Fourthly, pornography causes spiritual destruction.
Any wise counselor can tell you of the destruction caused by pornography.
7. Turn to James1:4-6:
14 But every man is tempted when he is ______________ ________________ of his own lust and enticed. 15 Then, when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth _______; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth _____________. Do not ____ [be deceived], my beloved brethren.
Lust brings spiritual death. When it gets into your heart, it's going to be expressed one way or another.
Sexual temptation is all around us. You’d have to hide in a cave to avoid it. Since you cannot practice isolation, you'd better learn to practice insulation.
A little boy was asked to complete this Proverb: “Cleanliness is next to _______.” He completed it this way: “Cleanliness is next to impossible.” We laugh, but you may feel that way.
How can you keep your mind pure? Over the centuries, men have searched high and low trying to get pure, to be pure, to no avail.
However, thank God there is hope. The Lord Jesus Christ would never have handed down such a warning had there not been a way to escape.
8. Having said that, let’s leave the Sermon on the Mount and go to the Psalms.
INSULATING YOUR MIND…HAVING A CLEAN THOUGHT LIFE
Turn to Psalm 101.
This is a Psalm of David—perhaps written, many believe, before he fell into sin when he saw Bathsheba and became obsessed with her. In that instance, David embodied the person Jesus described in the Matthew 5:28 passage above. He looked, he lusted, he committed adultery with her in his heart, then he followed through and summoned her to come to him at the palace. But before that, God inspired him to write Psalm 101, which sets out the way of life every man should follow who wants to be godly inside and outside his home. As you read this, keep yourself in mind.
Fill in some important words:
1I will sing of mercy and judgment;
Unto Thee, O Lord, I will sing.
2 I will behave myself ___________ in a _____________ way.
Oh, when wilt Thou come unto me?
I will walk within my house with a perfect _____________. [None of us is perfect, but David is promising God that to the best of his ability, God helping him, David would walk uprightly before the Lord.]
3 I will set no ____________ thing before mine__________;
[Stop for a moment here and turn quickly to 1 John 2:16-17
For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the ______, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
It has been said that we can boil our greatest temptations down to 3 categories: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Each has to do with being caught up in this world and the deception of what it offers. Back to Psalm 101.]
3, continued I hate the work of them that fall aside [who turn away];
It shall not cleave to me.
4 A ______________ heart shall depart from me;
I will not know a ________________ person.
5 Whoso privily [secretly] slanders his neighbor,
Him I will cut off.
Him that hath a high [haughty] look and a proud heart,
will not I suffer [I will not endure].
6 Mine eyes shall be upon the _________________ of the land,
That they may dwell with me;
He that ____________ in a perfect ______,
He shall serve me.
7 He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my _______________;
He that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight [continue in my presence].
8 I will early _______________ all the wicked of the land,
That I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the Lord.
a. How many times in verses 1 through 5 does God refer to the heart?
b. What is David promising God he will do within his house?
c. And what does he promise God will be his standard outside his house?
d. What choices will David make in his interactions with other people? ( see v. 8)
The greatest tragedy in David’s life was
- not that his brothers seemed to be a little jealous of his youthful success
- not the betrayal by King Saul and being hunted down like an outlaw for years.
- not the loss of his dear friend Jonathan.
- not even the death of his baby son, born from his illicit union with Bathsheba.
No, it was the devastation and fallout within his household that followed David’s choice to give in to his lust for Bathsheba.
Stop and ponder. Are there things in your life you are giving into which seem to you, at this point in time, won’t have lifelong consequences?
David never dreamed his one-night-stand with Bathsheba would produce
- The death of his loyal soldier Uriah
- The death of his infant son, which produced such grief David’s servants became worried about his health.
- Turmoil between his other children, resulting in rape and murder
- Rebellion by his son Absalom, resulting in Absalom’s death.
- Rebellion throughout his kingdom.
Look at the fallout from that one “little” act!
By the way, the discussion about “safe sex” is bogus. That’s like talking about “safe sin.” There is no such thing. It’s sacred sex, which is the best sex. God is not trying to keep sex from you; He’s trying to keep sex for you. God loves you. This is one of His greatest gifts. Don’t mess it up; don’t blow it. And if you have, admit your problem and get clean. Then affirm your purpose to stay clean and apply your power to keep clean—which is the Word of God. Get that Word of God in your heart. Let it flow through you. Don’t tell me it won’t work if you haven’t tried it.
9. What does Numbers 32:23 say?
“…behold, ye have sinned against the Lord; and be _______ your sin will _____ you _______.
10. Galatians 6:7
“Be not deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man _________, that shall he also _________.”
11. Back in our James 1:15 passage—what is the ultimate result of sin?
Then, when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished [full-grown], bringeth forth ____________.
We have the diagnosis and the cause for the sickness. Now we need the cure.
Three Steps to Keeping a Pure Heart
What I have learned from the Word of God and tested by experience. I pray that God the Holy Spirit will etch these things upon your mind. If you don't need them, someone you know needs them. And if you’re not having a problem with sexual lust, you can apply this to the problem of anger, or pride or gluttony or any other kind of problem. The principle is the same.
12. Turn to Psalm 119. Here you will learn how to do what Jesus says you must do.
I want every dad to learn this, because this is what you need to teach your son.
I want every mother to heed to this.
I want every teenager to learn it.
I want every grandparent to teach it.
We are dealing with a very serious matter in America today. The battle today is for the mind, the heart, the soul. That is the citadel.
9 Wherewithal young man _____________ his way?
By taking heed thereto according to Thy ____________.
10 With my whole __________ I have sought Thee; [there’s that word again!]
Oh, let me not wander from Thy _______________________!
Whose commandments are these?
Is He a killjoy, or does He have your best interests at heart?
11 Thy word have I hid in my ___________,
That I might not _____ against Thee.
12 Blessed art Thou, O Lord!
Teach me Thy _______________.
13 With my lips have I declared
All the judgments of Thy mouth.
14 I have _______________ in the way of Thy testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
15 I will _______________ in Thy _________________,
And have respect unto Thy ways.
16 I will _____________ myself in Thy _________________;
I will not forget Thy ________
Beyond any shadow of doubt, this passage is telling you how to have a clean thought life.
STEP ONE: Admit your problem and get clean.
How can a young man cleanse his way?
If you read that something needs to be cleansed, what does that tell you about the thing in the first place?
The Hebrew word here has the idea of a rut, like a rut in a dirty road. It's a groove. A person with a filthy mind has a groove in his mind; he has a one-track mind. His thoughts always run that way, like wagon wheels in a rut in the road. This person has a “way” that needs to be cleansed and become pure.
He must be humble enough to admit there is something wrong. It may be pornography. Or you may not be using pornography. It may be some thought process. It may be some secret fantasy. It may be lusting after a person in your office. It may be your neighbor’s wife. Whatever it is, you must admit you have a problem. If you don't, you’re never going to get help. Admit your problem and get clean.
God will never cleanse an excuse or an alibi, but God will always cleanse a sin. You can be clean today. I don't care what your addiction or problem has been, what you've been looking at, what you've been thinking, feeling, or doing—today you can be as clean as the driven snow by God's Word.
Taking heed thereto according to the Word of God.
The instrument of cleansing is the Word of God. If you don't get clean, you are never going to win the war.
13. Turn to John 15:3 Jesus Christ said,
"Now ye are __________ through the _________ which I have spoken unto you.”
A CLOSER LOOK AT “CLEAN”
The word for “clean” here is the word catharsamos. It's where we get our word “catharsis” from. A catharsis is a cleansing on the inside. Jesus will make you clean on the inside through His Word. Picture the cleansing tides of Calvary and the fresh breezes of the Holy Spirit blowing through you, washing over you and making you absolutely clean.
14. Turn to 1 John 1:9:
If we ______________ our sin, He is faithful and just to _____________ us our sin and to ________________ us from all unrighteousness.
The principle is this: CLEANSING follows CONFESSION
Every man, woman, boy, and girl can be absolutely, totally, perfectly, clean.
Before you can stay clean, you've got to get clean. Have you ever done a spring cleaning? Once a room gets clean, it's so much easier to keep it clean. This is what Jesus will do inside you. But first you must admit your problem.
Pray: “I do have a problem Lord. I have a secret addiction. I have an inward moral impurity. It is there. I admit it is there. I know that Your blood is sufficient, and the authority of Your Word will cleanse me and make me clean.”
STEP TWO: Affirm your purpose to stay clean.
"With my __________ heart have I sought thee. Oh let me not wander from thy commandment.”
The scourge of our modern day is half-hearted Christians. You can get clean and not stay clean unless you first admit your problem, then affirm your purpose. With all there is of you, every fiber of your being, you commit with your whole heart to seek God.
Half-heartedness is an insult to God. Satan is in a battle for your mind. If you are half-hearted, you will lose that battle.
15. Turn to James 1:8 What does James say about a half-hearted person, torn in two directions?
16. See James 4:8. What does James tell the believer to do?
_______________ your hands, ye sinners and _______________ your hearts, ye [what are they?] ___________-minded.”
17. Now see Deuteronomy 4:29. This encouraging, uplifting verse is one that you should commit to memory.
But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find Him, if thou seek Him with ______ thy heart and with _____ thy soul.
Have you ever made up your mind that you’re going to get clean and stay clean?
Have you ever said, “By the grace of God, I will?”
Have you often admired the character and life story of Daniel? Taken into captivity by the Babylonians, Daniel not only rose to prominence in the court but maintained his integrity when Babylon was later conquered by the Persians. Through not one but two secular kings who neither knew nor feared Daniels’s God, the God of the Bible, Daniel held high office. This doesn’t come about by accident or double-mindedness. What did Daniel do early in life to have this character?
18. Turn to Daniel 1:8:
But Daniel ______________ in his ___________ [there’s that word yet again] that he would not _____________ himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not ___________himself.
It is not a stretch to conclude that if Daniel made a decision not to be defiled by the king’s rich food and drink, there were other aspects of life in Babylon he purposed not to be defiled by.
Have you ever purposed in your heart, saying, “With my whole heart I am determined. By the grace of God I am determined I will not behave this way.
19. Another saint of the Old Testament was Job. In Job chapter 1, God describes him as a perfect and upright man who feared the Lord and shunned evil. This didn’t just happen without effort on Job’s part. Turn to Job 31:1:
What did Job purpose in his heart there?
Job made a determined choice to remain sexually pure. “I have determined—I’ve made a covenant with my eyes.”
As someone who has often had to travel to speaking engagements, I’ve spent some time in hotel and motel rooms. But when I get there, I don't have to keep on making up my mind each time whether or not I'm going to watch pornography on television. I’ve made a covenant with my eyes. I have determined I will not do it. With my whole heart I have determined I will not do it.
I don’t say that to pat myself on the back but to stress that it is a decision of the mind and heart. You have to come to that place where you make a decision—a covenant, if you will—with your heart and your eyes. If you don’t, you will go down to defeat. You cannot be halfhearted. You alone must make that decision; no one else can make it for you.
How important is it to you to be pure? Man, woman, young person, do you really want to be pure? Have you said, “With my whole heart”? If not, you may as well forget it.
STEP THREE: Apply your protection to keep clean.
It’s not enough to get clean and determine to stay clean. You need help. Your protection to keep clean is the Bible, the Word of God. Remember, verse 9 says,
“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word.”
You must use the Scripture as an antidote against pornography and lust and protect your heart. Remember, Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them through Thy truth. Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17).
A. Memorize the Word of God.
"Thy ________ have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.”
The Bible is your one true protection. If you do not load up on the Word of God, even though you may purpose to stay clean, you'll not stay clean.
“These hath God married, and no man shall part,
Dust on the Bible and sin in the heart.”
Get into the Word of God. Do you have a daily quiet time when you get alone with God? When you’re absorbing mega doses of the word of God? If not, no wonder you are failing. The Word of God is worth no more to you than a ten cent novel if you’re not reading it, putting it in your heart and mind. Memorize it. Get it down in your heart.
Philippians 4:8-9 says:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Paul also said:
"Those things which ye have both learned and received and heard and seen in me, do, and the God of peace shall be with you.”
How will that protect you?
God says, “Fill your mind with that which is right.” God has made us where we can't think two thoughts at one time. And if you’re thinking what you ought to think, you cannot be thinking what you ought not to think. And what you ought to think is the Word of God. You must hide God's Word in your heart. Load up on the Word of God. Commit it to memory. The Word of God is the antidote for impure thoughts.
I try every night as I go to sleep, my last thoughts are the Word of God. I take a verse of scripture and meditate it on it. When I wake up in the morning, my first thought generally is the Word of God and a word of praise to our Lord. You must memorize it.
B. Personalize the Word of God.
Blessed art thou oh Lord; ___________ me Thy statutes."
What good is it to memorize the Word if you don’t understand it? Facts from the Bible—even wonderful facts—are not enough. God must take the Word and teach it to you. He will, if you make the time for Him. He wants to teach you His Word.
Pray, “Oh God, teach me Thy Word. Lord, I want to know Your Word.”
As you read any passage, ask:
Is there a lesson to learn?
Is there sin to avoid?
Is there blessing to enjoy?
Is there promise to claim?
Is there a new thought to carry with me?
If you'll just use those five questions, almost any passage of scripture will just burst aflame.
C. Verbalize the Word.
"With my lips have I _____________all the judgments of Thy mouth.” (v. 13)
Begin to speak it.
Confession and possession are linked. Use the Word of God in your prayer, your praise, your testimony. When everybody else is cursing and swearing, begin to articulate the Word of God. Speak to yourself, and God's Word will move from your heart to your lips and from your lips back to your heart again.
The more Word of God you give away, the more the Word of God will stick to you. We need to speak, share, sing, the word of God. The Psalmist said, “His praise shall be continually in my mouth.” Continually.
D. Revere the Word.
14 I have _____________ in the way of Thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.
Is that true of you? Do you rejoice in God's Word? Does God's Word mean more to you than any other thing you could possess?
15 I will meditate in Thy precepts and have ______________ in all Thy ways.
Do you stand in awe of the word of God? Do you have respect for God's ways?
16 I will _____________ myself in Thy statutes. I will not forget Thy Word.”
Verse 14, rejoice. Verse 15, respect. Verse 16, delight. Understand how wonderful it is.
All of these years, I have found joy and fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ. Have a respect for God's word. Rejoice in God's word. Know the riches of God's Word.
Don't sell out cheap, and don't sacrifice the important on the altar of the immediate. You will find fulfillment in the Lord Jesus.
E. Internalize (meditate upon) the Word.
23 Princes did also sit and speak against me, but Thy servant did ___________ in thy statutes.
48 My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandment which I have loved. I will meditate in thy statutes.
97 Oh how I love Thy law. It is my ___________________ all the day.
99 I have more understanding then all my teachers for Thy testimonies are my ____________________.
148 Mine eyes prevent [are awake before] the night watches that I might
______________________ in Thy Word.”
Meditate, meditate, meditate.
Meditation is the same as what a cow does after heating hay—the cow stores it, then chews it. The cow “ruminates” (meditates) upon it.
It’s like having a tune in your head you can’t get out, and you go around all day long humming that tune. The Word of God is to be that way. This is when you internalize the word of God. It takes time, quietness, concentration. You need that Quiet Time.
As you do this, it stays with you all day. Meditating on the Word of God produces results in your life.
It’s somewhat like learning to drive a stick shift.
When you first attempt it, you’re concentrating: “That’s first, second, third, fourth….how does it work?” You’re going through remembering to put the clutch in. But after a while of driving a stick shift, you never think about it anymore. It’s just second nature. You don’t tell yourself you’re shifting gears; you’re doing it automatically and that. It becomes second nature.
The Word of God becomes “second nature” to you when you meditate upon it. After a while, you don’t stop to ask, “What must I do? What must I not do?” The Word of God is such a part of you that you don’t even have to say, “I will or I won’t”—you just follow His Word because the Word of God is in you. You have internalized the Word of God to such an extent that your mind is under the blood, empowered by the Spirit, because it’s filled with the Word of God.
Then you are a victorious person.
“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word.”
Father God, I pray You will seal this Word to every heart. I pray for many young men and women and older people that they might learn to walk in purity before You and know the thrill and joy that You alone can give. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
*The report is available for free online at http://www.scribd.com/doc/20282510/Dr-Victor-Cline-Pornography-s-Effects-on-Adults-and-Children#scribd