The pastor’s heart: Reservoir or cesspool?

“Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

“Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19).  “Rend your hearts, not your garments” (Joel 2:13). 

This is one of those lessons almost no pastor learns except by personal experience.

Someone told you a joke years ago.  In my case, it was an older cousin and I was a young teen.  The joke was dirty by any measurement and some would say it was funny.  But it was filthy and has stayed with me all these years.  The joke is still in my mind and I am unable to get rid of it.

I wish I’d known.

I wish I’d known that something unclean contaminates everything it touches and destroys the good and the righteous.

The other night while channel-surfing I came upon a biography of a Hollywood personality who served as an unofficial, unpaid pimp for celebrities and stars over many decades.  The man had written a book and the network–whichever it was, I didn’t notice–was interviewing him and running some of his photographs.  His was a sordid life, where anything went and no standards of sexual purity existed.  If it felt good, “what could be wrong with it?”  That standard-less indulgence even applied to  little children.

I watched perhaps 15 minutes of it before turning it off.  Why didn’t I t urn it off earlier?  The only answer I can find is: It was like watching a train wreck; it’s awful but you can’t take your eyes away.

That 15 minutes contaminated my mind.  Ever since some of the stories the man told have reappeared in my consciousness, if only to say, “How horrible” and “How is it that some people can do anything without the first vestige of guilt or shame?”  The answer, of course, is that they are lost.  Not all lost people do such things, thankfully, and there are certainly degrees of moral deterioration, but that’s the only way to explain the degradation of a whole segment of society bent on self-pleasure and indulgence.

We think of what Paul said: “It is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret” (Ephesians 5:12).

“Cleanse me, O Lord.”  

David’s prayer of Psalm 51 has been special to every generation of God’s people for the simple reason that it expresses what we feel when we have been polluted and shamed.  We remember what being clean felt like and long for that purity once more.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I john 1:9).  The reason for this, John states two verses earlier, is that “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Let’s make a few statements here and see if this is helpful to anyone…

  1. It is the nature of adolescents to be curious about sex.  Period.
  2. Thus, the typical adolescent–particularly boys, which is all I know about–will be inquisitive, fascinated, and a rapt audience for stories and information.  This makes them vulnerable.
  3. So, the Christian adolescent and his/her guardian must be careful.  There are right ways and wrong ways to express the curiosity and to educate oneself.
  4. The adult—whether a pastor or not–still has a lot to learn on the subject and the curiosity will not disappear at the altar or by ordination.
  5. God’s redeemed must be proactive and armed in advance, prepared for any eventuality.  “Walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15). Otherwise, he/she may be blindsided and caught up in something unhealthy too quickly.
  6. Pornography is addictive and destructive of normal sexual relationships.  “Flee sexual lusts” (I Corinthians 6:18).
  7. However, pornography comes in all degrees and disguises.  It doesn’t always wear a triple XXX and come with a warning.  Sometimes a seemingly harmless television show or movie may sneak up on you and dump an entire load of filth into your reservoir, turning it into a cesspool  A cesspool is an underground container for the temporary storage of liquid waste and sewage.  
  8. There is no substitute for a daily cleansing from the Lord.  “According to the multitude of Thy tender mercies, have mercy on me and blot out my transgressions, O God” (Psalm 51).   The Old Testament priests would arrive at the tabernacle (later the temple) and before going to work helping people with their worship and sacrifices, had some personal business of their own to take care of.  “(Moses) set a laver between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar, and put water there for washing, and Moses, Aaron, and his sons would wash their hands and their feet with water from it. Whenever they went into the tabernacle of meeting, and when they came near the altar, they washed, as the Lord had commanded Moses” (Exodus 40:30-32).
  9. So, let none of us try to excuse our failures as though we had never sinned.  “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8).  Let us show understanding and mercy to those who struggle with sin addictions and problems since we too are vulnerable and to one degree or other, we have “been there/done that.”
  10. Let us daily celebrate the forgiveness of God through the precious blood of Jesus, shed for our sins.  See passages such as those mentioned above in I John 1, but also in Hebrews 9, in Acts 20:28, and in I Peter 1.  In fact, it’s all through Scripture.
  11. Let us never try to do the Lord’s work with a sinful heart.  We would be offended if the restaurant’s kitchen staff did not wash their hands and keep a clean environment, so how much more those of us who deal with the holy things of God.
  12. Let us fill our mind with Holy Scripture (“meditate on these things” I Timothy 4:15) and walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh.

Compassion and understanding to those who struggle.  Celebration and rejoicing with all who are overcomers.  And consistent faithfulness “in a long direction” for all of God’s redeemed.  For all of us.

That’s the plan.

 

 

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