Oddly enough, this advice to avoid certain places is valid, at least when it comes to sin. Christians know that God gives us power to overcome, yet we also are responsible to avoid places of temptation. Sin begins in the heart, as these verses say, so to avoid sin, the appetites of my heart must be denied.
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. (Proverbs 4:23–27)
I know my weak spots, yet if I guard only them, I might miss another place in my life where sin can find access and trip me for a fall. Sometimes temptation happens in a tough or obvious situation, but sin can start with a little thing and then wrap its tentacles in an increasing grip on my life. I need to pay attention to my heart and, as the above verses say, and also to my speech, what I look at, and where I walk.
Keeping my heart is about my thoughts and inner life. Jesus warns that the heart reveals all…
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. (Matthew 15:18–20)
Here He focuses on the sinful thoughts that become sinful actions. Later, Paul wrote to the Philippians encouraging readers to think on pure and noble thoughts. This is because the heart is linked to our words…
… For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:34–37)
The Bible does not stop there. Besides watching my thoughts and what I say, I’m to watch what I look at and what I hear. In regard to lust, Job said, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:1) Could this also apply to some movies and television shows, and not only the visuals but the language used in them?
The Bible warns about turning from pure and wholesome words and listening to garbage. It says, “Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge” (Proverbs 19:27) meaning that the more garbage I listen to, the more apt I am to forget the words of God and stray into sin.
This command to guard my heart covers eyes and ears, but it also includes being careful where I walk and caution in the activities I choose. David wrote, “I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word” (Psalm 119:101) for he had learned the hard way the importance of physically turning and walking away from temptation.
Lest all this sounds like me trying to save myself from sin, Paul offers these words:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12–13)
I work it out, but God works it in. Without the presence and power of Jesus Christ, I could not avoid anything that appealed to my senses. Jesus is the One who saves, and if I begin to think otherwise, all I need to do is look at the world around me. No one has any power to continually stay away from sin and its temptations.
Jesus, again I thank You for Your saving power. On my own, I am apt to do anything. With You, I can guard my eyes, ears, mouth, feet and heart. Thank You for working in me that I might work out my salvation!