The Word of God tells us to “guard your heart with all diligence.” In real life there are very different signals to watch for when it comes to protecting our hearts. We all have what we call our “personal space.” We immediately get uncomfortable upon invasion. However, when online there is a greater tendency to let our guards down. After all, we can just click the X button if we think it’s gone too far, right? If it were that easy. Just one picture… just one flirtatious text… Below are 5 areas to guard your heart from while online. You may think that none of them apply to you, but my inclination is that each and every one of us are subject to these forces every time we go online. The time to guard your heart is prior to entry of one of them. After one or more has gained entrance, a different teaching is needed – one of deliverance.
1. Pornography: What else could come at the top of this list? Pornography is prevalent within the church, and unfortunately, many of its leaders have also fallen prey. Proverbs 7:26 says, “For she has cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her.” Pornography will destroy your spiritual life and your marriage. My mentor, Lester Sumrall, used to say that “sin will take you further than you wanted to go, keep you longer than you wanted to stay, and cost you more than you were willing to pay. These words of admonishment are no truer than as it relates to pornography. Pornography is very addictive. The addictive aspect of pornography has a biological substrate, with dopamine hormone release acting as one of the mechanisms for forming the transmission pathway to pleasure centers of the brain.
In the Family Research Counsel’s report on pornography it is noted that men are six times more likely to view pornography than women. However, the study also identified that women were more inclined to engage in chat of a sexual nature. Jesus said that if your right eye causes you to sin then pluck it out! (Matthew 5:29). In other words, get rid of whatever is causing you to sin. If you can’t get on the internet without being tempted to view pornography then stop going on the internet.
2. Emotional Affairs: This is where the enemy is subtle in his attack. A married person starts finding emotional fulfillment through online relationships with the opposite sex. It may seem harmless at first; after all, it’s just talk or chat, right? That may be where it starts, but it too often ends with wrecked lives. Consider these remarks from the Relationship Institute:
Is your marriage actually in danger the moment you start investing time in a relationship with any man who isn’t your husband. Yes, according to the Relationship Institute, which says that an emotional connection is much more dangerous than a physical one.
‘Some argue that an emotional affair is harmless,’ says a spokesman, ‘because it is more of a casual relationship than traditional cheating. ‘However, the intimate nature of the communication, in addition to the emotional investment made by the people involved, places an emotional affair on the same level — or worse — as traditional cheating.’
There are a million ways to justify it, but if it was pure there would be no need to rationalize the need. There’s nothing wrong with interacting with the opposite sex online, in a wholesome manner. But when it starts extending to frequent emails and text messages, sharing innermost thoughts and feelings, it is sin. You are taking something away from your spouse, intimacy, and giving it to another man or woman. You may say, it’s just friendship, and that may be the case for you, but not so for the other person you are leading along. If you find yourself going down this trail, put a stop to it. Jesus clearly told us in Matthew 5:28 that adultery was a matter of the heart, not just the body. Intimacy with the opposite sex, physical and/or emotional, is to be limited to the marriage relationship.
3. Foolish Talking: It is easy to create a different persona online than you are in real life. After all, you can be a tough guy, even if you do weigh 132 pounds, or a Casanova, even if you don’t have any front teeth. A little role play may not be terrible. However, when a Christian begins to carry on like the world with filthy talking, hiding behind an anonymous user name, it is sin and it is displeasing to the Lord. Ephesians 5:3-4 says, “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints;neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.”
Guard your heart against departmentalizing your life. In other words, having one personality at work, another at home, another online, another at church, etc. The Word of God tells us that we are ambassadors of Christ (II Corinthians 5:20). That means we are called to represent Him at all times.
4. Addiction: The internet can be a valuable tool as well as a source of entertainment, neither of which are wrong. However, when a Christian spends inordinate amounts of time online, escaping from family, friends and real world activities then the internet has become an idol that needs to be torn down. The same is true if one is consumed with watching television or reading romance novels endlessly. Scripture teaches us that all things should be done in moderation. At one time I was addicted to watching football. It didn’t matter who was playing, or on what level. I had to watch every NFL and College game being aired on television. I would record the ones on at the same time and watch them later. If my favorite team lost, I think it hurt me more than the actual players. God dealt with me about this idol in my life and I no longer have that addiction. Sure, I still enjoy watching the Steelers play, but I don’t feel crushed when they lose and I only watch about 10% of the games I used to watch. I no longer feel like I’m missing something if I didn’t watch a game. Do you feel like you are missing something if you can’t get online?
Romans chapter 6 tells us that whatever we yield ourselves to we become its slave to obey. Instead, we should be slaves to God. Is there anything in your life that you could not walk away from if the Lord put His finger on it? If so, it is an idol, an addiction. Ephesians 5:16 tells us to “redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ultimately, where we invest the majority of our free time is what is most important to us, by default. If you don’t think so, just ask those around you.
5. Being a Stumbling Block: I Corinthians 8:9 tells us that it’s not all about ourselves. Imagine that! But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. God holds us accountable for our brothers and sisters. Paul also wrote in Romans 14:13, “not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.”
How can we be a stumbling block online? There are several ways. One way is to provoke another to anger intentionally. After a while, we learn the hot buttons of those in our online communities and it is easy to set them off. I have been guilty of this and I have asked God to help me in this area. Another way is to engage in what some would consider “harmless” flirting, with sexual innuendo. We talked about this in point number 3. Of course, the most thought of way of being a stumbling block is with pictures. And as noted in point number 1, men are six times more likely to stumble in this area than women. Pictures should not be posted online that are of a sensual or seductive nature. Fitness related pictures in good taste are one thing, but how can God be pleased with Christian women posting pictures wearing revealing lingerie in seductive poses? I Timothy 2:9 says, “that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation.” Our need for attention should not be the cause of stumbling for someone else. As Christians, before we take any action, we should ask ourselves, “How does this affect those around me?” This is a central message of the gospel and to think that our liberty allows us to do as we choose is a deceptive lie.
In conclusion, I am thankful for the internet. It allows me to communicate teachings from the Word of God, to get to know people from all over the world. It also provides a relaxation for me when I just want to hang out in an online community for a while. But I need to guard my heart because Satan walks about as a roaring lion seeking those whom he may devour (I Peter 5:8).