Have you ever sat behind that person at the movie theater? Maybe they are tall and block a clear view of the screen. Or perhaps they cannot resist the urge to comment on the movie or reminisce about in what other movies this or that actress has been. But one way or another, they obstruct your enjoyment of the movie.
But what makes this person so vexing? Is it the sheer fact that they are tall? No, you can encounter tall people in other scenarios and are not annoyed. It isn’t their conversation either; I have enjoyed many conversations about a movie in other settings.
What makes these things so odious is not what they are in themselves but rather what they obstruct; what makes them so vexing is that they are robbing you of your enjoyment in what is going on behind them. They are stealing from you a greater joy.
Sin robs us of a surpassing delight. In my work as a pastor, I often counsel with young men who are struggling with pornography. Early on in my ministry, my counsel was directed more toward preventative measures. Have software on your computer. Have a mentor hold you accountable. Recognize the times you are most susceptible and limit those opportunities as much as you can. And all of these things are good. They should be done.
But I have learned that the most lasting and effective strategy that will keep you from pornography (and really any other sin) is by finding greater delight in God than you do in that sin. Rather than merely focusing your energy on keeping yourself from sin, instead gorge yourself with practices that give you a clearer view of God and the joy that you find in knowing Him. Seeing God in all His glory is the greatest preventative measure against sin I have found. As Thomas Watson put it, “If men knew God in His purity and justice they would not dare go on in a course of sinning.”
We don’t win the battle against sin until we meet our desire for it with a greater joy in God.
We cannot only fight against sin by designing strategies to keep us from it. Imagine if I said to my wife: “Honey, I don’t want to go to the mall with you today because I know that I will encounter women more attractive than you and I will be tempted to stare and lust after them if I see them.” Is she honored by that? Sure, I am keeping myself from lust, but what does that say about my delight in my wife if the only way I can keep my heart set on her is if I keep myself away from women I regard as more desirable?
A main part of our strategy against the desires of the flesh is to pursue greater delight in God. We need to fill our minds with the glory of the all-satisfying God and let our enjoyment of Him push out all others lusts. Watson again says, “Ignorance is the womb of lust.” When our hearts are ignorant of God, our lusts have room to conceive and grow and give birth to a life of sin. And so we must fill ourselves with the knowledge of who God is and what He does.
Never close the Scriptures until you have asked yourself, “How does this story show me the surpassing beauty of God?” Read authors whose unique voice helps you grasp God’s greatness. Turn off the television one night this week and spend your evening walking outside with someone close to you while the sun sets in blazing splendor all around you and recount the things that God is doing in your life. Pursue a greater wonder at the character and work of God and you will feel the cold clutches of sin’s grasp around your heart loosen.
Sin loses its luster when we understand that it is obstructing us from a greater joy. We won’t have the wisdom that hates sin until we come to see sin as something that robs us of a more satisfying delight.