Is that possible? The Bible says, “Above all else, guard your heart, (what you know and are motivated by, for our purposes here – your mind.) for it is the well-spring of life.” Prob. 4:23 Some of us have been on our own for a while, others are striking out on their own for the very first time, being exposed to new ideas, new surroundings and having new experiences; which involves deciding what’s good, what’s not so good and what should be avoided altogether.

But that’s a lot of responsibility. The counsel, help and advice of friends and family can and should be used in making those decisions; but the answers to the questions of life, and their results, are now your responsibility to a degree they have never been before. That’s why it is so important to guard the resource from which you make those decisions – your mind.

Have you ever heard the expression, ‘Garbage in – garbage out’? That’s why we are admonished to be careful whom we associate with, about the music we listen to, the movies and TV we watch, the stories and jokes we hear. Because what we say, sing, watch, read, and imagine – is processed as part of our inner being and stored in our minds; for use and/or abuse – to tempt us to become involved. We must realize that good and bad can be stored up in our minds. Sometimes the very thing we don’t want is what will stick and come back to haunt us, being revived in a weak moment to help push us over the edge to participation in something we wouldn’t ordinarily and know deep within is wrong. Matthew recorded Jesus as saying, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” Inferring, at least in part, that through what we visually experience we are often stimulated to accept or become. Thus Jesus’ declaration that, “If the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness.” Matthew 6:22,23 For, “… as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7 KJ

When we were young, our parents wanted more than anything to protect us from harm; that included emotional and spiritual harm as well as physical. They didn’t want us to hear or see things on TV, the radio, at the movies or among the “crowd” that would be demeaning, hurtful, coarse or “dark”. They tried to divert our attention to things of value. So how do you now control what you see, hear, and participate in; what you think about and dwell on? How do you monitor what you expose yourselves to; sometimes willingly, at times exposed to unwittingly? What should your response be to things you can’t completely control? Get away from it! (As in, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness,…” 1 Timothy 2:22 See also 1 Timothy 6:11)

That raises another issue. At what age does it become OK to watch R and X-rated movies, to listen to music encouraging poor behavior, to tell indecent stories and racist jokes? Can you safely experience stuff at twenty you shouldn’t at fifteen? I want to say, very guardedly; maybe – to a few things. It is never right to watch X-rated material. There is nothing wholesome or uplifting in listening to coarse, filthy, or even suggestive music or jokes. There may be an exception for a few R-rated movies that deal with violence or adult subjects honestly albeit graphically, but which don’t wallow in gore and explicitness. The problem centers around the idea of tolerance and desensitization; for the more you see and hear, the less sensitive to such material you become. And what about the kids you undoubtedly will have someday? Will you suddenly develop the sense and sensibility to realize that ANY viewing of such at their impressionable, innocent age is harmful?

Jesus cautions that, “… out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean;…’” Matthew 15:18-20 (See also Jeremiah 17:9,10) Where do these unclean actions have their starting point? As a thought, an idea, an emotion born from what we’ve learned through what we’ve seen and heard. He is further recorded as saying, “… out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” Matthew 12:34,35 What’s overflowing your heart and mouth onto others? Will you be held responsible? Of course you will! Jesus warning, “…that men will have to give account for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36,37

Paul tells us to, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 3:2 Does that mean we can’t love and appreciate our families, friends, the earth’s beauty and the opportunities coming our way; or do we appreciate these things more as we see all this through God’s eyes? Jesus likewise expresses concern about the things we give importance to and treasure, that which gets our attention and motivates us; for what we store up as treasure now will one day be withdrawn and used to base life’s decisions on. (See Matthew 6:19-21)

We are called to be different. Paul specifically tells us not to conform to the world’s value system, but to be transformed into something unique. We don’t do that by reflecting the world’s views but by renewing our minds in the ways of God. (Romans 12:2) And yet, we don’t have to live our lives in fear of screwing up, although we will make mistakes. Keep looking to Jesus, stay in His word; the good will outweigh the bad – if you work at it. So, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6,7

Finally … whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me (Paul here, but in reality from all your loved ones and those who have counseled, taught and even lectured you out of love and concern.) – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8,9