1 Peter 5: 8-9: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
We know that the devil seeks to devour us believers, either to kill us or to lure us into sin and compromise our Christian testimony and spiritual walk. The believer in Christ must walk in the world with the utmost spiritual carefulness and watchfulness. This is not to become a life of worry, but of faith and wisdom. Not a single one of us is above temptation and we need to be keenly aware of that fact. I can be tempted just like you can, so to live the Christian life requires that we humbly accept our own weaknesses and seek to build ourselves up in our faith. This is not just about avoiding certain things, but it is about filling our minds with the pure truth of God.
Yet there are many things the Bible clearly says we are to avoid. We are not to put temptation in our own way but rather clear these things out of the way. We are to search after God with all of our heart, as we read in Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Jesus said, in Matthew 6:33: Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you as well. We are to seek the Lord exclusively in our hearts and bring all other things in life under His Lordship. Our minds are to be set on the Spirit resulting in life and peace within our hearts (Romans 8:6).
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:4-5
Some things in our lives need to be surrendered to God to let Him purify them, but other things need to end altogether. Not everything in this world can exist under the Lordship of Christ. Some things we need to rid our life of, namely: pornography, drugs, filthy language, violent behavior, and any kind of unrighteousness. Here we are just considering two common themes of the modern media: sexual images and vulgar language. A life that is surrendered to Christ must avoid getting caught up in these things, of putting sexual images before our eyes and constantly hearing cursing.
Often Christians participate in the movie culture of today for fear of missing a good film, or of being left out of modern culture – after all, we may think, everyone else (or so it seems) is seeing this movie. I don’t want to be left out. But choose instead the best things – the things of God – and you will find that you have received the better part of life. Jesus, speaking in hyperbole, said to pluck out the eye that offends and cut off the arm that offends, that it is better to enter eternity maimed than enter into death with all our parts. The application is that nothing that the world advertises is as fulfilling and as truly meaningful to our hearts as walking in fellowship with the Spirit is.
Just consider the verses below, that represent only a few of the many similar biblical passages on the importance of keeping our thoughts pure.
Job 31:1: I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman.
Psalm 103:3: I will be careful to lead a blameless life … I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart. I will not look with approval on anything that is vile.
Proverbs 4:13-15: Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life. Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way.
Proverbs 4:23-27: Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.
Proverbs 6:23-25: For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life, keeping you from your neighbor’s wife, from the smooth talk of a wayward woman. Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes.
Matthew 5:27-28: You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
1 Corinthians 15:33: Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
1 Timothy 3:2-7: Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
Ephesians 4-6, especially
Ephesians 4:1: As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
Ephesians 4:17-24: So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:27: Do not give the devil a foothold.
Ephesians 5:3-7: But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.
Ephesians 3:8-20: For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 6:10-13: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
If you ever thought that these matters of seeing pornographic images and hearing constant cursing were unimportant, hopefully you now see it differently. As Paul wrote, we are to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Lord, we stand in Your power and Your power alone. Forgive us and cleanse us and use us. Purify our hearts and our minds. Give us wisdom to know what to rid our lives of, and the courage to do it. Bless us as we live for You. Amen.
More from J. Oswald Sanders‘ Spiritual Leadership, on “Courage”
Courage of the highest order is demanded of a spiritual leader – always moral courage and frequently physical courage as well. Courage is “that quality of mind which enables men to encounter danger or difficulty with firmness, or without fear or depression of spirits.”
Martin Luther possessed this important quality in unusual measure. It has been asserted that he was perhaps as fearless a man as ever lived. When he set out on his momentous journey to Worms he said, “You can expect from me everything save fear or recantation. I shall not flee, much less recant.” His friends, warning him of the grave dangers he rain, sought to dissuade him. But Luther would not be dissuaded. “Not go to Worms!” he said. “I shall go to Worms though there were as many devils as tiles on the roofs.
When Luther appeared before the emperor, he was called on to recant. They insisted that he should say in a word whether he would recant or no. “Unless convinced by the Holy Scripture, or by clear reasons from other sources, I cannot recant,” he declared. “To Councils or Pope I cannot defer, for they have often erred. My conscience is a prisoner to God’s Word.”
When again given an opportunity to recant, he folded his hands: “Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me.” A few days before his death, recalling this incident, Luther described his feelings: “I was afraid of nothing; God can make one so desperately bold. I know not whether I could be so cheerful now.”
But not all are courageous by nature as Luther was. And this fact is both explicit and implicit in Scripture. The highest degree of courage is seen in the person who is most fearful but refuses to capitulate to it. However fearful they might have been, God’s leaders in succeeding generations have been commanded to be of good courage. Had they been without fear, the command would have been pointless. The responsibility for his own courage is placed on the leader himself, for, since he is indwelt by the Spirit of power, there is possible attainment.
Contrast these two records: “The doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19) and “They saw the boldness of Peter and John” (Acts 4:13). These were the same disciples confronted by the same Jews at an interval of only a short time. Whence this new courage? Inspiration gives the answer: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” And when the Holy Spirit is ceded control of the whole personality, He imparts “not the spirit of fear, but of power…” (2 Tim. 1:7).
The courage of a leader is demonstrated in his being willing to face unpleasant and even devastating facts and conditions with equanimity, and then acting with firmness in the light of them, even though it means incurring personal unpopularity. Human inertia and opposition do not deter him. His courage is not a thing of the moment, but continues until the task is fully done.
 J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership (Moody Press, Chicago, 1967), pp. 55-56.