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Eye Promise: Guarding Your Heart
By Guarding Your Eyes

Be careful little eyes what you see;
Be careful little eyes what you see.
There's a Father up above
Looking down in tender love,
So be careful little eyes what you see.

So went the Sunday School song I learned when I was about four years old. It had additional verses about other parts of the body and the need for care in using them ("ears what you hear ... mouth what you say ... hands what you do ... feet where you go").

The lesson it taught me early on was that I am responsible for what I do with my body. I have choices to make as to how I use the parts of my body. It was years before I knew the verse in Romans 6 which refers to using the members of my body as instruments of sin or righteousness (v. 13); but the principle was engraved on me in my Beginner's class.

Of course, the other lesson of the song is that there is a God who sees me all the time; and because he is a God of "tender love," I would not want to displease him. Not bad theology for a little kids' ditty.

Girl Watching

I just wish I had remembered the message of the song about ten years later. You know, when the testosterone starts pumping, and the "little eyes" begin to notice things that they hadn't before.

The teen years are a time for setting the patterns of manhood. Unfortunately, for many of us the patterns that were established included the misuse of our then full-grown eyes. Our eyes were not careful what they saw.

In the days when you could still get away with calling a female a "girl", girl-watching was just a part of life. It certainly was in the public schools I attended. But it didn't stop with admiring the pedestrianna who liked to strut her stuff. There were the magazines, and the movies, and for too many of my peers back then—well, the eyes weren't the only body parts that got misused.

If the sixties were a sensual era, the nineties are even more so. Female flesh is ubiquitous; you can't escape it. The female body is the currency of advertising. It greets you in the check-out line at the stores where they put all the junk magazines; it beckons you from the highway shoulder on the billboards hawking women's underwear (!); it sells you tacos, and vacation trips, and hammers, and ball-point pens.

And then there is the way women dress today. Their clothing commonly serves the aim of soliciting the looks of men. Tight fits, low necks, sheer material, intentional "eye traps" set purposely to make a voyeur out of all men who pass within visual range.

Without even entering the all-too-accessible world of pornography, a man today must walk a daily gauntlet of sights that God never meant his eyes to see. The invitations to sin are delivered relentlessly.

First Step to Adultery

So back to our little song .... What we need is to be very careful; and most of us are not careful enough what we see. Let's first quickly dispose of the old nonsense about "enjoying God's creation" when we scan a woman's body Yes, God made the female body to be enjoyed by the man but there is only one such body that should ever be thus enjoyed by any man, and that is the one belonging to that man's wife!

Ours is an adulterous culture. If it is acceptable to couple with someone other than one's covenanted spouse, then, of course, it is also acceptable to look at other women. But looking is the first step to adultery.

Think of the great Christian men you have known who have fallen into immorality. Do you think they one day, out of the blue, decided to go out and commit adultery? No. It developed slowly, and it started with a look. It always starts with a look. Where else could it start? Looking at the body of a woman who is not his wife is the first step to adultery for any man who falls into that sin.

That is why Jesus drew such a direct connection between the look and the act of immorality: "...anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matt. 5:28). I don't think Jesus is saying that imagining an adulterous liaison is as bad as doing it (though that is true enough). He is saying that even the first lustful look is the same sin as full-blown adultery.

What is a lustful look? Any look that attempts to possess through the visual channel what does not belong to a man. You not only do not have the right to sleep with another man's wife; you do not even have the right to look at her in a way that is sexually pleasurable.

What is a sexually pleasurable look? It is not just explicit sexual thoughts, nor even the casual admiration of private areas of a woman's physique. It is that first faint flicker of lust, that almost unconscious nervous-type feeling that springs to life when looking at another woman physically. Even that must be avoided because—and here is the point again—it is the first step on a very slippery slope which leads to adultery and death.

Drastic Measures

James 1: 14,15 warns that "each one is tempted when, by his own evil desires, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." Before there is even recognizable sin in our hearts and actions, there is "evil desire" which entices. That is why we must be so ruthless with ourselves to quench the very first flicker of desire for that which is not ours to have.

Immediately after he cautions against the lustful look, Jesus goes on to say, "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 our body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell" (Matt. 5:29). Self-mutilation is better than sinning. The Lord expects us to take whatever measures are necessary to keep ourselves from being led into sin. What measures can we take to avoid sinning with our eyes? Let me suggest five specific steps.

1. Make a Covenant With Your Eyes

God's Word provides us with one godly man's solution to our problem. In Job 31:1 the righteous man Job tells us: "I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl."

Job must have learned the same song as I (but I wish I had known from the start to do what he did!). He was so determined to be careful with his eyes that he made a covenant with them. He made a binding agreement, a promise with himself that he would never try to possess a girl with his eyes.

So we can picture Job: when confronted with a flash of flesh carelessly revealed, he turned away. If he saw a woman dressed to entice, he would force himself to look at her face if he had to look at her at all. He developed the gritty discipline of controlling what his eyes were allowed to see. This is what we must do.

If King David had made an "eye promise," he would have saved himself a load of trouble. What would he have done that evening on his rooftop when on his stroll he looked down and noticed a bathing beauty? (2 Samuel 11:2) He would have immediately turned away, closing off the visual channel to his heart. Instead, he looked, and he was enticed, and he conceived a plan, and he committed adultery, and he had a man killed, and he had adulterous sons, and he lost his favorite son—all because he had not made a covenant with his eyes!

2. Counterattack

A second strategy for keeping our eyes pure is to turn our temptations into an ambush on the enemy. If Satan knows you are weak in controlling your eyes, he will attack you at that point of weakness (he is an excellent military strategist!). So what you need to do is turn the guns on him. Make a decision that whenever you are tempted with your eyes you will fire a prayer or Scripture missile.

You are innocently looking through a news magazine at the barber shop awaiting your turn when—bang!—there is a scantily-clad woman in the "Arts" section. Turn the page quickly; then fire your missile: pray for some specific thing that will hurt the enemy's kingdom, or repeat a passage of Scripture that you have memorized. You could pray for your wife and God's work in her life, for your children, for a church leader, whatever. You could quote Bible verses that will strengthen your resolve to live a life of purity. Just use the temptation as a reminder to do something specific that will hurt the Tempter. The payoff? He may leave you alone after a while because he doesn't want to risk getting shot at!

3. Avoid Tempting Situations

The third way to maintain cleanness through your eyes is the most obvious: avoid the tempting situations. Don't look at the magazines that are likely to cause you trouble. Don't go to that fellow employee's cubicle; call her on the intercom. Don't watch television programs (or commercials) or video movies that have sensual appeals.

And what about swimming pools? These days mixed bathing situations, especially public pools, are guaranteed to provide temptations by the bucketful. A man with an eye promise will almost have to don dark glasses and a white cane at such a place. He'll be so constantly diverting his gaze, he'll be visually impaired!

To help avoid temptation, one thing we men need to do is to talk openly in our churches about proper attire for our wives and daughters. Whatever direction the world around us may take, we must assure that our families and churches do not partake of the sensual spirit of the day.

4. Be Accountable

A fourth means of protecting purity is suggested by the previous point. We men need to be accountable to one another for the purity of our lives.

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10)

God never meant for Christians to succeed in isolation. We need one another. We need to be honest about our failures, specific in our prayers, and deliberate in our encouragement.

5. Confess and Press On

A final measure we can take is to confess our failures to keep our eye promise. Rather than merely feeling defeated when we sin, we should immediately return to the cross of Jesus Christ and there again humbly plead for his mercy. The victory of Jesus over sin is as potent today as the first day we believed. (1 John 1:9)

Satan, whose name means "Accuser", wants us to wallow around in fruitless despair over our sins. Jesus, whose name means "Savior", wants to set us free from both the guilt and the power of sin. Freedom begins with confession. And confession involves repentance which is turning around, getting back on the right track, and renewing our covenant with our eyes.

If we take these steps, beginning with the covenant with our own eyes, then we will be men who have gone a long way toward keeping our hearts pure and our lives useful to the Lord.

There is so much at stake here. It is not only a matter of our own lives and our own holiness. Our choices affect our children as well. If a man is still bound by the sin of lust and cannot control his eyes, then his children may well be growing up with a similar weakness. Scripture makes clear that sin has an effect through the generational connection (Exodus 34:7). I not only need to be a holy vessel for Christ for my own sake, I need to be a pure channel through whom he can work in my children. My eye promise may save my son from adultery. Again, consider David and his family.

Above all, remember that the Lord did not save us to have us struggle with sin all our lives. He saved us to defeat sin in us, to give us victory over sin. Yes, we will battle sin until we die; but we need not struggle with the same sin day after day. "Sin shall not be your master" (Romans 6:14). The Christian man is free—free not to sin.

You can make—and keep—a covenant with your eyes. "There's a Father up above looking down in tender love, so be careful little eyes what you see." It's still good advice.

Posted here with permission from Patriarch Magazine

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