I don't have a television or a VCR, and by God's grace I have been kept from all forms of pornography. But consider the Christians who have TV — and cable as well. It's after 10 p.m., the kids are in bed, and they sit and watch an R- or X-rated movie. Right before their eyes they see adults fornicating and performing every evil thing from hell. Both spirit and body get caught up in it. Or, there might be this scenario: You are away from home and nobody knows you. You are feeling alone and a curious urge comes over you. The enemy of your soul whispers, "Go to such and such a movie — just once — you can repent later!" So you go to an R- or X-rated movie. It is corrupt and makes you feel dirty and sinful. You leave the theater empty! Or, suppose instead of going out, you simply tune into a dirty movie on the motel room TV. Right there in the room the Holy Spirit leaves, grieving, as a child of God has his eyes glued on a sordid, wicked, sensual movie! And here's one last scenario: Walking down the street, you stop at a newsstand, gazing over all the sex magazines (Playboy, Penthouse, etc.) and a whole assortment of other vile magazine! Just looking! But, you buy a New York Times and a dirty magazine as well, slipping it in between the pages of The Times. You take it home and hide it, bringing it out secretly to lust over the photos. After a while, you throw it away in disgust, saying, "Never again! It's stupid — silly — who needs it?"
But there's something even more serious: Suppose I walk the streets to work or to church, or ride the bus or subway, and my eyes are "roving" — always looking! Satan flaunts flesh on every side! Many dress, walk, and act as it they are demon-possessed! They're like walking pornography, tempting your eyes. Although men and women are both guilty of roving eyes, men are probably more prone to them. Wives keep watch out of the corner of their eyes as their Christian husbands turn their heads and follow women with their roving eyes — at restaurants and even in church! Wives watch their husbands' eyes! Nothing is more disrespectful to a wife or more degrading than a husband who roams with his eyes right in her presence!
In the City this is all intensified by the sheer number of people, the sensual advertising, and the way the wicked dress. Years ago, here in New York, women wore dresses down to the ground! They were modest — they still blushed. It was a shame to even expose an ankle. Today many women dress like prostitutes on the prowl! Even fifty years ago, most of them would have been put in police cars, wrapped in jackets, and booked for indecent exposure! You can be sure the temptations will get worse the closer we get to the end of this age. It is going to be terrible.
The question is, why would any true child of God focus his or her eyes on such ungodly filth? We know the lust of the eyes is one of the biggest battles being waged by Christians today. I saw a man carrying his Bible at 68th Street and Broadway. As a lady wearing a mini-skirt passed by him, he crossed the street, looking back all the while, endangering his life in the traffic. How terrible it seemed! The Bible seemed out of place. This is a battle being fought by ministers, lawyers, doctors, politicians, people from all walks of life and every nationality. There are thousands who indulge secretly who would never want anybody to know. And thousands of others slip back into it just once in a while. But it has a hold on them and they can't seem to get completely free.
I want to speak here only to those who seek to please the Lord and to walk in holiness. Why is there this evil attraction? Why do some keep doing it? Why the roving eyes? Isaiah spoke of the daughters of Zion having "wanton eyes" or wandering, roving eyes: "...The daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go..." (Isaiah 3:16). David prayed, "Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way" (Psalm 119:37). "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes..." (Psalm 101:3). Proverbs 4:25 says, "Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee." Why don't we keep our eye looking right on, straight and pure?
We are not recognizing that the eye problem reflects a deeper heart problem. God must get us to see that something is not yet settled in our hearts, that there is a root cause for roving, lustful eyes. "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23). We are not taking the matter as seriously as Jesus does. He makes this eye matter an issue of life or death. It is not something we outgrow. Rather, it must be dealt with in the fear of God, decisively and unsparingly. We must recognize that Jesus said it could damn us to hell if it is not dealt with once and for all. Jesus said that an evil eye must be plucked out!
Let me tell you how this message came about. I mentioned earlier of seeing a Bible-toting man eyeing a mini-skirted woman, and how badly I felt about him. In fact, I thought, "You dirty old man!" But God's Spirit lovingly rebuked me, saying, "He is your mirror. You have been doing the same thing! Perhaps not with a Bible in hand, but you have not been guarding your eyes as you ought." That night, and to this very moment, the Holy Spirit put a godly fear in me, warning me that what I look at is very serious business with the Lord. It is not a legalistic trip of bondage. It is life and death. It is impossible to have a pure heart and undisciplined eyes. The lust of the eye is an extension of the lust of the heart.
The Bible says there are some who "feast with you; having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin..." (2 Peter 2:13-14). They come to God's house to feast with us. They listen and enjoy the Word, but they are full of lust. This includes women as well as men. They pretend to want Jesus — they say all the right words — but they have one thing uppermost in their minds. They are man-crazy or woman-crazy! With roving eyes! I've had many of these come to me for prayer, saying, "I can't help myself. Something comes over me. Lust sweeps over me! It's got to be demonic!" A minister who got caught with eight women in his church told me, "It started when I was fifteen with the maid in our house. It became a habit and I saw nothing evil about it."
In all of these, it is the flesh — not demons — reigning. "The Lord knoweth how to... reserve the unjust unto the day of judgement to be punished: but chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness.... self-willed..." (2 Peter 2:9-10). Peter says, "... An heart they have exercised with covetous practices..." (2 Peter 2:14). The word "exercised" has to do with nudity! They have been obsessed with nudity! They coveted it — practiced it — lusted after it with their eyes! Of them, Peter says, "The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire" (2 Peter 2:22). These are sweet-talkers on the prowl. What a line they've got. Liars International! With all the right answers! "For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error" (2 Peter 2:18). This is one of the most powerful, significant warnings in God's Word for the church today.
To all of you who have escaped false teachers, who have come out of error and made a clean escape from doctrines of demons, who have escaped the corruption of a church or leader who was false — beware of another trap: a high-sounding, spiritual, double-talking seducer sent to you by the devil just when you are most vulnerable. To all married women, heed this message! If you have been spiritually awakened and are hungry for God — if you've been turned around and want nothing now but Jesus — but your marriage is not what it should be, if there's turmoil and trouble, if things have gone sour and he doesn't share your deepest longings, if you're growing apart — watch out! The devil will put right in your path a man who seems so spiritual, so wise, so understanding. This man will seem to read your mind. He will talk like no one you've ever heard! It will be high-sounding and appealing to your vanity! Your husband will seem so bland by comparison.
There was a minister in Canada who met a "prophetess." How she did prophesy — telling him his ministry would shake nations. She could read him, understand him. Compared to this woman, his wife was "materialistic and unspiritual," so he said. They ended up in an affair with the woman prophesying the whole time, saying, "Thus saith the Lord..." while committing fornication! Another man and his wife, now attending Times Square Church, had belonged to a shepherding fellowship where he had been told he was not spiritually in tune with her. The fellowship forced the wife to divorce her husband and then brought in another man [some spiritual spook] to marry her.
"While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption..." (2 Peter 2:19). Heed the warning of the apostle! Guard yourself! These who have eyes full of adultery can spot the troubled ones. They lay a sympathetic hand on you or call you, saying, "I've got a burden for you. The Lord woke me up and told me about you. I've got a good ear. Tell me all about it." If you are married and you are on the phone (or in person) pouring out your heart to someone other than your mate — then you are sinning and playing with fire! You are in the very trap of which Peter warns.
Here is a word to singles. If you are set on God and determined to follow Jesus at any cost, you will be a target of Satan. He will send your way somebody who has what I call "honeymoon religion"; that is, just enough spiritual sweet talk to get you to the altar! A young wife confessed, "He sounded so spiritual! All he talked about was the Lord. He told me Jesus was everything, but the day we got married he changed." No! He did not change. His true colors just came out. She remembers that all the time they dated, he had a spiritual tongue but grubby hands! That's the test. Deny his animal lusts and see how spiritual he is!
There is a Scripture that has troubled me for years: "If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell" (Matthew 5:29). This is a person who is under the absolute Lordship of Christ. If the flesh or self were on the throne, what could offend us? It is because Christ rules supreme that the eyes offend — anything unlike Jesus becomes offensive! These words of Jesus show us how seriously He takes this matter of roving eyes. He also mentions the same message again in Matthew 18. Twice in one book! If Christ rules and reigns in your heart, you will experience His grief everytime you look lingeringly at any man or woman, or pick up a porno magazine, or sit and watch even five minutes of a filthy film, or buy or rent an off-color movie! Your spirit will cry out, "O Lord, I am offending You with my eyes!"
"If your right eye offend you...." Why does Jesus speak of the right eye? Can't the left eye see the same? The right eye represents overpowering authority. Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father. Since God is a Spirit, there could not be a literal right or left hand. Rather, it represents our Lord's all-powerful position of authority, the right hand representing power. So your right eye is any lust that has assumed overwhelming power or authority in your body. Right-eye sins are those which have roots — those which so easily beset us. It becomes the right eye of flesh, the overpowering eye, when it is yielded as "instruments of unrighteousness unto sin..." (Romans 6:13).
For some it is an overpowering right eye of fantasy. This is the curse of marriages: husbands or wives daydreaming of something better, with an evil eye that is blind to reality and fixed on some fantasy. They can't believe God for a miracle of healing because they live with a false vision that somewhere there is a Mr. or Mrs. Perfect! Years ago, I was on a TV program with a comedian who had been married over eight times and who was about to marry again. I told him, "I think I've just met the saddest man in America." Later he confessed, "Eight women couldn't be wrong! I expected them to bring me happiness — I was married to one of them only one week!" Since none could make him happy, he would leave. If you are one of these daydreamers, you need some Holy Ghost eye salve to clean up your vision! Those fantasies can destroy what is left of your marriage.
Jesus said to pluck it out and cast it from you! He is saying plainly and simply: "That's enough! Stop it — cut it out — no more! No more evil fantasizing! No more dirty magazines and movies! No more roving eyes! Cast that right eye away! Do not let that lust have sway anymore. Pluck that lust out of your heart!" Jesus makes no excuses for you; He simply says give it up or be lost: "for it is profitable for thee that one of they members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell." You can pray, cry mercy, plead grace, excuse it as weakness, plead helplessness, even say it is God's work to do and not yours. But Jesus said, "You pluck it out — you cast it from you!" We would not be commanded to do what is impossible; it has to be possible because He told us to do it. But we just don't want to strive against sin. Instead, we will plop down in front of a TV movie, turn on something vile, and pray, "God, where is Your power? Deliver me!" We will walk into a newsstand, pick up a filthy magazine, and whisper, "Lord, where are You?"
Listen to Christ's warning: "I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew 5:28). Most would acknowledge that a secret affair breaks trust and ruins marriage, and that outside of God's grace it is never the same. But looking at pornographic materials, whether male or female, lusting after images, has the same effect. You are just as unfaithful! You might as well have been physically with a prostitute. Your mental adultery will kill your relationship with your spouse. It hurts marriages because the husband or wife cannot measure up to what you saw. The devil says, "He or she is too fat! Look what you're married to!" The comparisons are made and what you have seems so far from your fantasy! Now you look, your eyes rove, because he or she cannot satisfy you. Satan has polluted your mind, making you feel cheated.
On the subject of masturbation, even Christian writers have written, that it is a legitimate way to relieve tension, that it is not fornication. Now single Christians don't consider it sin to indulge in it, as long as it's all in the mind. But God's Word calls it self-abuse. Paul, a single himself, said: "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (1 Corinthians 9:27). Paul said, "I will not be brought under the power of any" (1 Corinthians 6:12). The danger to singles, as well as to the married, is that these lusts and habits begin to control and take power over the body. "Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).
Can God keep singles pure? Can He give them pure eyes? "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24). To the single or divorced woman He says, "Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more. For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called. For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God" (Isaiah 54:4-6). For young men, David says through the Holy Ghost, "Thou are my portion, O Lord" (Psalm 119:57).
"The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness" (Luke 11:34-35).
There was an article in a recent Sunday newspaper that aptly illustrated these verses. It concerned a lady film star who fell in love with her co-star. But it was all one-sided — he was nice to her and she mistook it for love. He, in fact, had another girlfriend. She became so obsessed that she lost all rationality, sending him a disfigured doll left on his doorstep, hounding him by phone and letters. The police took her in for questioning. It destroyed her life!
This is what the Word is speaking of — that evil thing the eye won't let go of, that becomes an obsession. It begins to take over. All common sense goes — intelligent people start to do stupid and dangerous things. The mind, body, soul, and spirit all become filled with evil darkness.
A young lady told me of how her love for a young man was destroying her. She felt she was losing her mind, always fantasizing about what life would be like with him. I talked to him and he was shocked: "I've never once given her reason to think I loved her. We've never dated! I met her twice." She is now on the verge of suicide, obsessed with him, and he is hurt because it wasn't his fault. It was her evil eye!
Why is Jesus so insistent, so commanding, that this evil thing be plucked out, ended, and cast away? Because He knows the horrible darkness and confusion that floods in. Everything you do will be tainted with evil. You will not be able to hear God's Word. The light you'll think is in you will be darkness. Horribly evil thoughts will enter your mind. You will become capable of lying, cheating, and conniving — calling evil good and becoming perverted in all your ways! You say, "Yes, there is something overpowering my eyes. I do have my eye on someone or something. But I can't stop — I can't let go." Jesus did not say it would be easy, but that it was possible. "...It is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than...to be cast into everlasting fire" (Matthew 18:8). It may mean you end up broken-hearted or emotionally lame. But it is either that or hell! Yes, it may be like dying. Something will die in you, but it has to go or it will damn your soul.
I read a sermon by a famous preacher here in New York given in an uptown cathedral. He said, "Don't suppress those deep feelings. Let go! Give yourself over to it; otherwise you'll destroy your personality." That preacher is going to face an army of damned souls in hell who won't let him rest for all eternity for lying to them!
Jesus said, "Pluck it out — cast it from you!"