I have just been pondering on this and the story of Joseph with Potiphar's wife. Joseph displayed integrity and was still wrongly accused and punished for a crime he didn't commit. Had he committed the sin, ironically he may not have ended up in a physical prison, but he would, as a result of sinning, have ended up in a mental, emotional and spiritual prison and many reading this will probably know what I mean. Hebrews 3:13 says Sin is deceiving and it hardens our hearts. We don't have to look far in the story of David to see how his gaze towards Bathsheba led to him sinning against God and man, having Bathsheba's husband killed. It took Nathan the prophet to come some time after the crime was committed to confront David and while David did not kill Uriah with his own sword, God actually speaks of the event as if David had personally killed Uriah because Uriah's death had been the 'intention' or 'motive' of David's heart. We see from scripture that David's sin has ongoing ramifications and impacts David on many different levels where we see the sins of the father brought calamity on his whole household. Sin always starts with a thought. It is a thought that we can take captive in the moment and make obedient to Jesus, or we can choose to allow that thought to take root, develop and grow. Had David taken his eyes off Bathsheba immediately after catching sight of her from his palace, he would have saved himself a lot of heartache. He continued to look and let his thoughts take root which gave birth to 'motives' and 'intentions' and that is what he acted on. In that moment David's fellowship with the Lord was compromised. He was no longer walking in integrity and truth and his heart hardened, even to the point of hatching a plot to cover up his sin by getting Uriah back from the battlefield so that it would look as if he was the father of Bathsheba's child and when that didn't work, he went one step further and had him killed. I learned early on in my Christian walk that certain movies were not good for me to watch as they caused me to stumble. So, difficult though it was and is at times, I choose to avoid the movies which I know contain adult scenes so as to avoid any triggers. (For the record, I also avoid very violent movies and horror movies as I believe that most are demonically inspired.) Occasionally I have made the mistake of reading a newspaper article, thinking it was benign, only to realise it contained something depraved and so the battle is still to be fought and I am still having to make wise choices on a daily basis. Admittedly, I don't always get it right, but my heart is set on trying as best as I can. I believe what Jesus meant when he said if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out, is Him telling us to avoid or switch off from those things that cause us to sin. It is not literally gouging out your eye, but removing or avoiding those things which cause us to stumble via what we see with our eyes. Matthew 5:29 Integrity is not always the easiest quality to find these days, even in the church. Many are letting the world dictate their standards rather than letting God's word dictate. If the highs a christian gets are from adult scenes in movies or fantasy, then their integrity and view of sex as God intended gets distorted. Adult scenes in movies or descriptions of love scenes in romantic novels are a form of porn if we are to say it for what it is and the reality is we would not consider going to our neighbours bedroom window and watch them make love, and yet some of us can somehow justify looking through the window of the television set, with people doing the same thing. Sin separates us from God no matter what way it is packaged up and it is amazing how convincing some of us can be, justifying it to ourselves and others! I have been there and got the tee-shirt along with 10 burnt fingers, so I am speaking first hand. David had convinced himself that taking Bathsheba for a few nights of pleasure was somehow justifiable, leaving his integrity firmly outside the doors to his inner chambers as he embraced sin. He was a man after God's own heart, and yet he compromised his walk with the Lord when he allowed his own heart to deceive him in that moment of seeing Bathsheba on the terrace roof. While there are increasingly fewer movies without sexual content or sex scenes, there are still some produced which are wholesome enough to watch, like family movies. If a movie is not wholesome enough for the whole family to watch, should it really be something that we as adults watch anyway? If it isn't appropriate for our kids, is it, if we were honest, appropriate for us? And if we watch a movie with an adult scene, what is the fruit? What way will it effect our thinking? Our view of our spouse and of sex? And for those of us who are single, are we illegitimately opening a door that God wants to remain tightly shut until within the confines of marriage? Song of Songs tells us 'Not to arouse or awaken love until it pleases' and while I am using a little liberty with this verse, I believe we are not to arouse or awaken love until it pleases GOD, within the confines of a secure godly marriage. Masturbation for a single person can also arouse love, or more appropriately 'lust' and be a person's downfall into a seedy world of fantasy and sin, and can distort their view of God's precious gift and impact any future marriage relationship, unless it is confessed and dealt with. And for someone who is married and engaging in fantasies coupled with masturbation, a door can be opened leading them into a 'prison' and robbing them of enjoying true intimacy with their partner. Once in that marriage, we need to make sure that we do not allow anything in to defile the marital bed including wrongful fantasies. Hebrews 13:4 What defiles the marital bed? There are the obvious sins of extra-marital relationships, but Jesus makes it clear that defiling happens even in our thought life. Whether the lustful thoughts are generated by porn, adult scenes in movies, billboards we lingeringly look at, double glances at ripped muscles on a man, or a curvaceous body of a woman, we are, in Jesus words, committing adultery. It may give momentary arousal and a 'feel good' hit, but it ensnares and is like the drug which needs more hits each time to get a high. Meantime our flesh goes about looking for a way of illegitimately meeting that need and at the same time the holy spirit whispers for us to take every lustful thought captive and make it obedient to Christ while lulling our sexual desire back to sleep only to be awoken within the confines of the marriage with our partner. Matthew 5:28 This scripture applies equally to women as it does to men. Women tend to gravitate towards the romantic novels, but the images still get formed as they read seductive passages and imagine the person in the book and the scenes being depicted. The end result is the same whether it is looking with lust at a woman which leads to sexual fantasies, or reading about it in a racy novel. Before God, the impact is the same -sexual sin. As Christians, we can perhaps justify our thoughts in these cases because we haven't 'acted' on them, or 'physically' sinned but God's word is clear, thinking about it equates carrying out the sin -the 'intention' is the same. Our flesh is great at justifying compromise. We need to remember that we are in an ongoing battle whether we acknowledge it or not. If we do not take the first thought captive and remove ourselves from the line of temptation, the flesh will take over. God's word tells us our flesh is hostile to God and at enmity with Him and the flesh will not nor cannot submit to God. No wonder hearts harden and people become deceived when sin is given a foothold and in this case, sexual sin. Romans 8:7 We are kidding ourselves if we think that sexual sin will not be a potential downfall if we take our eyes off the goal and give room to lustful thoughts. Our flesh and our spirit are in a constant battle and satan is out to pervert this beautiful gift of sex from our heavenly Father at every turn. The flesh is susceptible to sexual sin not least because we are sexual beings, created to reflect intimacy of the Bride of Christ and the Bridegroom in our earthly relationships, particularly in a marriage setting and our flesh will not lead us into paths of righteousness in this regard! It is because of what the intimacy represents in a heavenly perspective that satan throws all he can to distort our view of sex. Satan also knows that sexual sin is one of the most ensnaring as it incorporates body, soul and spirit in the act. The flesh is in conflict with the spirit according to scripture. Galatians 5:17 Galatians 5:16, the preceding verse tells us that if we walk in the spirit, we will not satisfy the lusts of the flesh. Crucifying the flesh is not always easy, but it is the only way for us to walk free of the ensnaring power of sin. If we truly are His, we will want to crucify our flesh and in fact Galatians 5:24 speaks of it as being part of the package of belonging to Christ, that we will and have crucified the flesh with its passions/lusts and desires. Ephesians 5:25, 28 Christ loved the church with a selfless love. Satan has so perverted sex these days, that the only person someone filled with lust is thinking of, isn't their partner, it is themselves and getting 'their' lustful needs met. It may, for some, take time to make the marriage relationship totally 'Christ-centred' even in the marriage bed, but it is possible. Sexual sin from the past does not need to dictate our future relationships. Through ministry, prayer and accountability plus making wise choices at every turn, a wholesome view of sex can be obtained and maintained. Ephesians 5:22, 33b As a woman, I can say with certainty that we are generally more 'global' in our thinking than men and can't just switch off when our partners say something which upsets us. We 'stew' more when we get hurt and before we entertain romance, we want the air cleared and things talked about. In a marriage relationship, a man can get angry with a woman for not being responsive romantically and doesn't realise the woman is still annoyed about something said earlier that they still want to talk about and that she does not want to engage in romance without clearing the air first. Communication is key here. The man needs to ask the woman if there is something wrong and see if the woman wants to talk about what is bugging her, and the woman needs to be honest too to bring resolve as men cannot read our minds! As women we are called to submit to our husbands and not use the giving or refusal of sex as a control mechanism in the marriage. When this happens, some men can feel rebuffed or rejected and can find temptation harder to resist and if they haven't had intimacy for a while, the billboards with seductive poses can prove more enticing and the battle of the mind increases. Sometimes other circumstances can dictate low intimacy levels within a marriage like illness, pregnancy and child birth and even grief, but communication about struggles will be a protection in the marriage. Women, when they are upset and they haven't resolved the issue with their husbands and talked about what's going on, can find the temptation to escape into a romantic novel harder to resist. The dashing hunk in the book never misunderstands, is always understanding, always bringing the flowers on cue, always complimenting in all the right ways and before long, the wife starts comparing the character with her husband. Again, communication is a protection so that we don't end up looking for illegitimate forms of comfort and embrace escapism. Back to Joseph. We are told quite a lot in Genesis 39. Joseph was well-built and handsome Potiphar's wife took notice of him and lusted after him, asking him to go to bed with her. Joseph refused, stating clear boundaries -his respect for her husband, for his position, and not least God, clearly stating that it would be sinning against God! She plagued him day in and day out but he refused her every time and kept his resolve. We are told he even refused to be near her, and that would have taken some strength of character to make that boundary with his employer's wife!! While he was attending his duties, it would appear she crept up on him and took him unawares and still he ran, losing his cloak in the process BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY not losing his integrity. Genesis 39 Potiphar's wife makes me think of that saying 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned in love' although in her case, it was lust. Looking at the fruit of Joseph's life, it is amazing to see the way God vindicated him and Potiphar's wife is never heard of again in scripture. She may well have been trembling in her sandals when Joseph was put in power, second only to Pharoah, knowing that Joseph could have had her imprisoned!! Joseph was clearly not revengeful though, having learned the power of forgiveness in prison and the purposes of God in his journey. Walking in integrity costs us, but it is worth every single 'penny' and in due season, we will reap a harvest, if we faint not. Let's take a leaf out of Joseph's book. Ephesians 5:3 Ephesians 5:3 shows us that we must walk without even a hint of anything inappropriate in our lives and by His strength and the power of the holy spirit we can do it. Some of us need more support in this area than others, but it can be done. The world will never agree with God's word on this matter, and neither will our flesh!!!! We know not to expect godly standards from ungodly sources. We are faced with choices every day just as Joseph was. He was a single young man who would have been very aware of his sexuality and desires, but he had already set his face like flint before the temptation arose, he took himself out of temptations way at every turn, he set his boundaries, and even when faced with a vulnerable situation he turned and fled. Let us encourage one another to keep our faces set like flint, to walk in humble obedience, seeing men as brothers and fathers and woman as sisters and mothers, and encouraging one another daily to walk with purity of heart and mind. Matthew 5:8 tells us that the 'pure in heart see God' and I long for each of us to see God and to keep running the race set out before us. Galatians 6:9 Bless you all and thankyou for reading.