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It soon becomes clear to every true child of God that if he is to be serious about personal holiness, sanctification, and growth in grace, he must become serious about guarding his eyes. As he becomes familiar with the contents of his Bible, he soon discovers the strategic place of the eye-gate in biblical revelation. The opening pages of the book of Genesis confront him with the critical place the eye-gate had in the entrance of sin into human experience. He reads that when Eve “saw the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes . . . she took of its fruit and ate” (Gen. 3:6).
Some time passes, and we read the record of a national tragedy when the nation of Israel is defeated by an inferior army. The reason for this failure in war is revealed when a man named Achan confesses his sin, declaring:
Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath. (Josh. 7:21)
Who reads and does not tremble at the account of David’s tragic fall with Bathsheba?
It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (2 Sam. 11:2–4)
If David only knew beforehand the tragic results of his not “guarding his eyes” during that late-afternoon leisurely stroll on his rooftop.
These tragic examples effectively remind us of the importance of setting a watch over our eyes. In fact, the New Testament calls us to a radical dealing with sin occasioned by the careless use of our eyes.
In Matthew 18:7–9, we are informed that we must be willing to deal with those occasions to sin as though we were excising the offending member, be it our hands, our eyes, or our feet. The options before us are clear: Get rid of the offending member or be damned. Conquer the sin at any cost. It is not a matter of gaining or losing rewards. It is a matter of life and death. This is strong language: “If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire” (v. 9).
The dominion of sin is broken whenever there is a true conversion. This truth is clearly articulated in Romans 6:17–18:
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to that standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
The writer to the Hebrews underscores this vital principle when calling the people of God to a life of disciplined obedience: “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Heb. 12:4). The writer tells those who would complain that they did not realize the Christian life was so difficult that they have not resisted unto death in their conflict with sin.
In our visually soaked generation, addiction to sexual uncleanness and unrestrained covetousness are common sins. We will not make progress in growing in grace if we do not rear back and roar a thundering No to the many voices that call us to compromise our consciences. When we are called upon to “cut off” and “cast away” the things that impede us in our pursuit of holiness, surely this will mean for some of us getting rid of the unnecessary things that constitute our “Christian liberty.” Could it be that we make so little progress in mortifying our sin because we are not convinced that the issues at stake are really issues of life and death? Do we really believe God when He says, “If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13)?
This brief treatment of “guarding our eyes” would be incomplete without bringing into service the familiar words of Job 31:1: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” We have here a protestation of moral uprightness and sexual integrity. Job has made a covenant with his eyes that he would not employ the wonderful gift of sight to feed lust and inordinate desire. Matthew Henry comments,
Shame and a sense of honor might restrain him from soliciting the chastity of a beautiful virgin but only the grace and the fear of God would restrain him so much as thinking of it.
In stark contrast to Job’s determination to maintain sexual integrity at the level of his thought life, Peter describes those whose “eyes [are] full of adultery” (2 Peter 2:14).
May God grant that we shall be numbered among those who believe the seriousness of the issues involved in “guarding our eyes.”