About four years into our marriage, I (Craig) did something really stupid that hurt my wife, Amy.

I was in our bedroom watching TV, just flipping through the channels with the remote. While Amy could hear the audio of my channel surfing from our bathroom, she couldn’t see it.

I was flipping: basketball, click, golf, click, fishing show, click, infomercial, click, girls dancing in bikinis on a beach . . . hold on a second. And I hesitated. After lingering on that channel for several seconds (with my mind, not to mention eyes, wandering a bit), I continued on.

A few minutes later, Amy came out of the bathroom and sat down on the bed facing me. She didn’t say anything at first. We just sat there, staring at each other in awkward silence for an uncomfortably long time.

Finally, Amy broke the silence. “Why did you hesitate on that one channel?”

Of course we both already knew the truth.

I couldn’t maintain eye contact with her. I clicked the TV off and looked down at the comforter. I said weakly, “I shouldn’t have. I . . . I’m sorry.”

She reached out and put her hand under my chin, gently raising my head until our eyes met. Then she quietly asked me a question I’ll never forget: “Well . . . was it worth it?”

The price of pleasure

While every engaged couple I know plans to have a great married life together, I don’t know many who plan to betray their spouse by committing adultery. Or have a raging porn addiction. Or a friend with benefits. But it’s become accepted, expected even, that everyone needs to do whatever it takes to be happy. Whether it’s just “a little something-something on the side” or a full-fledged affair, an emotional attachment to someone we meet online, or an addiction to erotic images, everyone wants to feel good

Nobody would ever say they plan for any of these absurd, out-of-control things to happen in their lives. But most people don’t realize the gap between knowing the right thing to do and doing it is filled with quicksand. Instead of building a firm, solid bridge through a shared commitment to daily purity and fidelity, a lot of people think they can find their own way across the divide. They forget that each little step they take toward their own pleasure is a step away from the holiness of their marriage. Each text, each flirty conversation, each website, each mouse click, each sensual fantasy.

God’s standard is for everybody to keep the marriage bed pure. Basically there are two kinds of purity: inward purity and outward purity. Inward purity means what’s going on in our hearts—the things we choose to think about and the things we feel. Outward purity is our behavior—the things we choose to do and choose not to do.

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The apostle Paul writes, “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” (Ephesians 5:3, emphasis mine). This means nobody should be able to see anything in our behavior that could give the impression we’re engaging in anything immoral or impure. Why would even just a little be too much? Because impurity is like poison; even a little poison is too much. It takes only a little to kill your marriage. You don’t want any amount of poison in your marriage.

A quiz: is this marriage poison?

Let’s take a little pop quiz on what constitutes this kind of poison for your marriage. Let’s begin:

You’re married, and you have sex with someone who’s not your spouse at your office. Hint of sexual immorality: yes or no? The answer is yes.

You’re married and you have sex with your kids’ babysitter. Hint of sexual immorality: yes or no?

Of course. Yes.

Let’s say you look at a website called Hot Chicks Gone Wild while you’re at work. Hint of sexual immorality: yes or no? Unless it’s a site devoted only to fried poultry recipes, then it’s still a yes.

You secretly lust after Angelina Jolie. Or Brad Pitt. Or the women on reruns of Baywatch. Or that boy toy from One Direction. Or all of the above. Hint of sexual immorality: yes or no? That would be a capital-yes offense on all accounts.

Let’s say you dress fashionably in tight-fitting, low-cut clothes.You can call it “stylish” or “sexy” if you want to, but you know what I’m talking about. Maybe you even dry to claim that you’re just showing off what God (or your plastic surgeon) gave you. Still, what do you say? Dressing provocatively. Hint of sexual immorality: yes or no? Um, yes.

You hear about some hot new book that everybody else you know is reading, say, Fifty Shades of Whatever. Or maybe your neighborhood book group is reading it. What do you think? Should you read it too? Would that be a hint of sexual immorality? Fifty shades of yes, absolutely.

We need to stay far away from it. We should flee from it. Even better, don’t even get close to it in the first place.

Is it worth it?

Consider the apostle Paul’s warning about these dangers: “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their body body” (1 Corinthians 6:18). Or consider this from another guy who was great at making a point — Jesus: “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. . . . It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30).

Jesus is saying we need to deal severely with anything that can cause us to sin. We need to stay far away from it. We should flee from it. Even better, don’t even get close to it in the first place. It’s radioactive poison.

No matter how many practical actions we take, no matter how long we remain faithfully married, maintaining purity will always be a challenge, because we’re human.

We may be tempted to justify our sin — “I’m just taking care of my needs, since she’s not” or “God wants me to be happy” — but that only is going to cause you to sink deeper into the quicksand of immorality.

The purity strategy

The only strategy that ultimately works is honesty: transparency, accountability, confession, forgiveness. Dealing with temptation and with our failures as they happen is the only way to prevent ourselves from sinking deeper and deeper into the pit.

One of the ways God helps me to escape temptation is the result of that early failure in our marriage. Amy’s question to me — “Was is worth it?” — has become a mighty shield in my life. Every since, that simple question has helped protect me, propelling me past all kinds of temptations right before taking a second look, right before making an inappropriate comment in mixed company, right before allowing my thoughts to wander, right before clicking on a question Internet advertisement, right before freezing on a TV channel instead of turning my eyes away and clicking through.

Is this going to be worth it?

I can tell you without hesitation that my answer now is always no. And just not no, but no way ever, under any circumstances, is there any sexual thrill that is worth compromising my integrity, hurting my relationship with God, or in any way opening a door that can hurt my wife.

If you’re feeling convicted because you know there’s something impure in your life, grab hold of that feeling. Let me ask you: Is it worth it? No!

It’s absolutely not worth it, and you know it.

Adapted from From This Day Forward by Craig & Amy Groeschel. Copyright  © 2014. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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