We are such fakes. We have this problem in North America with keeping up appearances, of keeping our problems and struggles to ourselves, of not admitting when we are in trouble. I should know because I am the worst perpetrator and I have met many people who come in close second. We do not like people to know or to see our weaknesses so we keep them hidden, hoping they will go away or at least not show their ugly face to anyone. I once had a supervising pastor who worked very hard at being open about his struggles and he did this to encourage people around him to do the same. He used to talk to me about his male flesh that would try to tempt him every time an attractive woman would walk by. He would laugh about how well he got to know the tops of his shoes in the summer because he dare not look around in the season of shedding clothes. It was refreshing to know that he was real and that he was still working out his salvation daily.
This is one area that men have it hard because we all know men are visual. We appreciate good looking things, from art to architecture, from cars to women. I am not trying to imply that women are objects to look at but only that, in the list of beautiful things in this world, for men women are at the top of the list. Yes, I know that beauty is more than the exterior appearance of a woman, that true beauty is found in the heart, but men are still naturally drawn to the beauty of appearance, at first. This gets us into a lot of trouble because it is a fine line between appreciation of beauty and the desire to possess.
It is here we find another example of Jesus taking us into the deeper understanding of the law. For the performance part of the law we know that adultery is forbidden, but there is more to it than that:
You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)
This is where men have to be very careful. It is true that we can appreciate beautiful things but we know if we spend too much time thinking about those things we begin to desire to have them, such as cars. I think we all appreciate a well designed and performing car, and we may even refer to it as being sexy. Although many of us cannot afford these expensive cars there is nothing stopping us from wishing. However, with women it is a different thing because it effects a different part of us. If we look too long then our looking prompts desire and when you begin to desire a woman it does something to you. You just crossed over from appreciation of beauty to the ugliness of lust. Jesus is saying that by doing this you have committed sin in your heart because it is adultery.
We forget that although no one knows our heart except us, it is the place where God dwells and is the most occupied with. It is our heart that concerns him because it is from there that everything flows. If we allow our heart to become corrupted by sin then sin is what will work itself out in our actions. Everything is first born in the heart long before it is given life in our actions and words. Jesus taught there is only one way to deal with it:
If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30)
In other words, stop doing whatever is leading you into sin. If looking at beautiful women is leading you to lust then stop looking. There are some men who think that Internet pornography isn't hurting anyone. People try to convince them to quit by explaining the abusive situation many of these women are in but I don't think that is very effective. Men have to come to understand that they are destroying themselves with this. Their heart is becoming so polluted that God can have nothing to do with them. It may appear not to harm anyone but it is eating away at them, who they are and who they are in Christ. Jesus says if it is leading you to sin get rid of it, so men, if you have lost control, fess up to it. Get rid of your access to the Internet or to cable / satellite, whatever the source is, until you can get some help getting your heart back.
I am not saying that women do not have a problem with this, it's just that it is a bigger problem for men. It is how we are made. But just because God made us to appreciate beautiful things does not mean he gave us an excuse to sin any more than putting that tree in the garden gave Eve and Adam an excuse to eat from it. Men have to be aware of our weakness and know where the line is. God had to deal with it in my life but he did deal with it because I invited him to. Each man reading this right now knows the power of that weakness but you also have the power to overcome it because Jesus overcame all the sins of this world. You are no longer a slave to sin but instead to God's righteousness, if you turn your heart away from sin to Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul explained:
Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (Romans 6:16-18)
The problem is that men often think no one is getting hurt and they don't realize they are killing themselves. Jesus said that this lust is adultery of the heart and adultery is sin and sin separates us from God:
When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:20-23)
Sin is never innocent. It is not the performance sin alone that will kill you but the hidden sins of the heart. This is why Jesus took the time to lead us to the deeper revelation of the law. Living the appearance of a well performed life is not going to get you anywhere if the center of that life is rotten with hidden sin. Men, be aware of your weaknesses, understand the consequences of the dangers, and perhaps many of us need to become more familiar with the tops of our shoes.