Turn with me please to Proverbs 7. We will return next Lord’s Day morning to our studies in Daniel while Rob is away. I thought tonight I would do something that is more in line with his newly begun mini-series “Our Sins” for two reasons.
First, I have recently begun reading through a small, candid, valuable book entitled The Purity Principle by Randy Alcorn with some of the churches’ teenage sons. We call them our Man of God meetings – M.O.G.
Secondly, I was all the more eager to address “sexual sin and temptation” after receiving an email from a recent graduate of Covenant High School. While she did not attend this church, she went all four years to CHS and graduated with honors. She has given me permission to quote her.
“As I look around my college campus and even at other supposedly “Christians” around me, I feel like we are losing many of those covenant children, born in the church and raised by Christian parents, to sexual sin. I, for one, felt completely unprepared to face any sort of sexual temptation coming from CHS and a Christian family and as I look back upon my growing up years, I feel as though the church failed me in a way by not preparing me for this. I didn’t know how prevalent lust was; I was clueless about how a guy’s mind works…. Sure, I was told to dress modestly, but I had no idea why I should do this.
Since I go to a non-Christian college, this is a much bigger temptation than for those at a Christian college, but I still think that sexuality is so unarticulated and not understood that at the first scent, many of our own are getting pulled away by its allure.
A Reformed University Fellowship campus minister once said that 95% of the guys he talks to are looking at pornography and the 5% that say they aren’t are lying. I wonder what was going on before they went to college. What was going on in high school that no one knew about or even earlier? I guess my hope in writing is to make you aware, or just reaffirm what you already know, about what my generation is facing.”
Would you follow along as I read Proverbs 7:1-27. I am operating under the conviction that it is much, much easier to avoid sexual sin and temptation that it is to resist it. It is far easier to steer clear of it than it is to extricate oneself from it in the heat of the moment.
Tonight we begin Part 1 of what I am calling “Two Tales of One Temptation.” This is what we can and should do to avoid sexual sin, namely: 1. Hide God’s word in your heart. 2. Do not let your heart turn to her ways. 3. Do not go near her door. 4. Look past her, to her many casualties and the chambers of death.
Next Sabbath evening we will consider what we can and should do to resist sexual sin and temptation, namely: 1. Venture all on the first refusal. 2. Flee! Joseph will be our instructor for these last two, but the first four lessons come from the concerned father of Proverbs 7. He does not want this to be an “unarticulated” topic, he does not want his son to email home and say how ill prepared he was for this prevalent and powerful temptation and neither do we for our sons and daughters not to mention our very selves.
The first thing the father tells us is:
- Hide God’s word in your heart — “…store up my commands, keep my commands, guard my teachings…write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 7:1-3
Yes, these are the Father’s commands – but all parental instruction and commands are an attempt to apply God’s eternal, unchanging laws and principles to our ever-changing circumstances and culture – His timeless law wisely applied “…store up my commands, keep my commands, guard my teaching…”
The problem with the victim of this chapter is that he is simple, lacking judgment, he has not yet learned to properly fear the Lord, he esteems moral instruction and correction too little, and he lacks moral conviction. So, when he sees moral danger he doesn’t recognize it as danger and keeps on going and suffers the consequences.
To borrow an analogy from Randy Alcorn, God’s word, laws and commands are like guard rails on a dangerously slippery, serpentine road along a breathtaking, but treacherous, coast. They stand between us and destruction. They are there, not to punish or deprive us, but to protect us. “I have hidden Thy word in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.” Psalm 119:11 We are not merely seeking to inform the mind of right and wrong, but to cultivate the heart to prefer the right and despise evil. Write them on the tablet of your heart! I have hidden them in my heart!
Here, then, is the first step in avoiding sexual sin and temptation. We must never tire of being reminded, Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day, that the Word should occupy a more prominent place in our lives. I dare say, if this first step is bypassed, it doesn’t matter all that much how diligently we apply ourselves to the others – we are doomed to fail.
Would you avoid this sin? Would you steer clear of its provocative allurements and many approaches? Then do not neglect this first step. Hide God’s word in your heart. We begin with the heart and continue with the heart.
- “Do not let your heart turn to her ways” Proverbs 7:25
Long before our feet venture her direction, our heart has beaten a well trod path her way. In this sin, like all others, it is often, if not always, a matter of the heart first. Our deceived hearts make unrighteous commitments – distorting the mind and softening the will to get what it wants. “Above all else (top priority), guard your heart, for it is the well-spring of life.” Proverbs 4:23 Our Savior would later say, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed…sexual immorality, adultery, etc.” Mark 7:21-22
We all come into the world with the seeds of sexual sin sown widely and deeply in our hearts, where they lay fallow, just waiting to be stimulated and teased by our sex-saturated culture. That magazine cover waters the seed, that billboard suns it, that scene from the movie fertilizes it and that immodestly dressed person weeds around it and what is the effect of years? A bumper crop of unrighteousness, an unrighteous preoccupation, lust aroused and inflamed and acted upon! Thank you, Lord, that we are not as bad as we could be, but we’re not as pure as we should be.
John Calvin said, “Nothing is more easy than for all our senses to infect our ‘hearts’ with depraved desires, unless we are very earnestly on our guard!” The heart must be guarded…especially when our culture preaches “Obey your heart!” at every street corner and every city gate. Throughout the market place we are told “Your heart speaks the truth!” Our heart must be guarded because it is skilled at deceiving us. We must ask ourselves; at least the men do on a frequent basis, “Has my heart made an unrighteous commitment to keep my lust alive?”
In the great divorce, C.S. Lewis tells an allegorical story about a ghost of a man afflicted by lust. Lust is incarnated in the form of a red lizard that sits on his shoulder and whispers seductively in his ear. When the man despairs about the lizard, an angel offers to kill it for him. But the fellow is torn between loving his lust and wanting it dead. He fears that the death of the lust will kill him – he is so one with his lust. He makes excuse after excuse to the angel, trying to keep the lizard alive, and the very lizard he says he wants dead. At one moment he cries, “Get this reptile off me! Who will set me free?!” and the next picture frame we see him nursing it back to life. The poor soul is stuck in the quagmire of Romans 7.
We have to ask ourselves regularly and our sons of age, “Has my heart made an unrighteous commitment to keep my lust alive? Have I tried to quell the red lizard by giving it whatever it wants? Have I tried to shut him up by feeding him as often as he demands only to find that he no longer resembles a lizard, but a small to mid-size dragon, with an ever increasing appetite and ever decreasing satisfaction? Do I really want to kill the red lizard of lust or am I tired of trying and failing, trying and failing and now find I am resigned to try to manage it so others won’t know how much of a problem it really is?”
Does our unrighteous heart say to our head, “Let’s just remove him from our shoulder where we can’t hear him whisper and entice and make his demands.”? “Let’s put him in our back pocket where he can’t do so much harm, but I don’t think we really need to kill him, do you?” “Search me O God and know my heart…see if there is any offensive way in me!” Do I really want to kill, to put to death, my lust? The man who really wants something is far more likely to attain it, or get nearer at attaining it, than the one who is double minded and half hearted.
“An impure thought, a polluted fancy, an idle book, filthy conversation, foolish company, theaters or places of vain resort – these are the adulteress’s ways. Dread the first step!” [C. Bridges] The first step is most often, if not always, taken by the pliable and unprincipled heart. If we would avoid the many dangers, toils and snares of sexual sin and temptation, then do not let your heart turn to her ways, guard it with all diligence!
- “Do not go near her door.”
His first mistake was a matter of the heart. His second was a matter of his feet. He started off in her direction, and even if we give him the benefit of the doubt saying he wasn’t fully resolved on committing adultery when he closed his own door behind him, he’s either guilty of being sinfully curious or willing to be tempted and overestimating his ability to make a hasty retreat if he had wanted.
But the Seductress of Proverbs 7 is a professional. She is well rehearsed, she knows her craft well in the ways of eros and knows how to bait, lure, entice, draw, hook, reel in, capture, knock unconscious, kill and filet her catch of the day.
Derek Kichner’s description of her five steps of seduction:
- Shock treatment – she takes hold of him and kisses him, puts him in a numbed stupor right from the start.
- Circumstantial story – it’s a special day of celebration, she’s in a ‘mardi gras mood’, “I have this meal that must be eaten today.”
- Flattery – he is the very one she’s been looking for.
- Sensuous appeal – perfumes, etc.
- Reassurance – “My husband is not at home and won’t be for a long time.”
I would only add she is dressed like a prostitute. She first makes entrance through the ‘eye gate’. She knows how to tease and arouse by what she is wearing, how she is wearing it and what she is not wearing.
Do not underestimate her abilities. Once you inch into her magnetic field, there is no turning back, her drawing power is irresistible. Not going near her door means cutting off the approaches of sin. It means gouging out the offending eye and dismembering the offending hand. In practice it means avoiding certain people…like the Proverbs 7 Seductress. She may not live in walking distance from my home or office, but I can have a clandestine rendezvous with her on the television in my motel while away on business. At first we’re just channel surfing, looking for something to tire by, and then inadvertently we pass her channel. Our eye catches a glimpse of her, we skip to the next channel, but can’t quite forget her, we return and pause and then she reaches out and grabs hold of us and kisses us and puts us in a stupor. Now the remote is no longer in our hands, but reclining peacefully at our side.
The Proverbs 7 Seductress may not live in walking distance from our home or office. She is much closer than that, a move of the mouse and a double click away, when the wife and kids are out shopping or sleeping. It may have all begun innocently – birthday or Christmas shopping for your wife. Blind-sided! How did that get on my screen, where did that come from? Before you have time to react she whispers her seduction, “My husband is away.” Perhaps you are fortunate and the Seductress of Proverbs 7 has not captivated you.
But if we would avoid temptation like a deadly contagion, are there not certain persons in our lives that pose more danger for us than others? Not because they are loose and immoral, but because they are compassionate, attentive, playful, good humored, witty, godly and all of that is very attractive. They are far from the Seductress of Proverbs 7. They are our sister-in-law, best friend’s spouse, the single across the street, the co-worker.
It may be near impossible to avoid entirely people of this category, but we can avoid certain topics with them and we can avoid over familiarity. We must avoid certain people and if we can’t avoid them entirely, it means avoiding over familiarity at least. Keep the emotional distance and respect the boundaries of propriety.
Dismembering the offending hand also means avoiding certain places. Not only ‘rated X’ places where a few women are paid to dress like that and dance like that, but a ‘rated R’ place that attracts a certain crowd where alcohol is sold and romantic music and up-close dancing encourages one to throw off inhibition. And not only ‘rated R’ places, but ‘rated PG-13’ places without the parental guidance like the high school parties where the parents let the kids decide what goes on all night as they withdraw to their upstairs bedroom. Or it may be a ‘chat room’, a ‘my space.’ Avoiding such persons and places is not legalism, I repeat it is not legalism – it is wisdom!
Wisdom will always take into consideration the occasions and factors that contribute to your susceptibility to failure. Would you know yourself? Would you kill your lust? Would you avoid temptation? Then you will ask which of the following factors most often weakens and compromises the fight within? When you are tired and fatigued, a long day; isolated—away from others where nobody knows your name; lonely; ill; discouraged; depressed; find yourself having too much unstructured time; in a celebratory mood after some achievement; discontent in your marriage? How is it that I came to wake up next to this gigalo or this ‘lady of the night’? I just went to that party with my friends! Long before your feet went to that party your heart blazed the trail to her bedroom. Don’t go near her door!
- Look past her to her many casualties and the chambers of death.
Son, wisdom looks past the outer appeal, wisdom connects the inevitable consequence with the foolish choice. “…like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare…little knowing it will cost him his life.” Proverbs 7:22-23
“Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng.” Proverbs 7:26
“Saul may kill his thousands and David his ten thousands, but what is that compared to her ‘mighty throng’! Graveyards in every tongue, tribe and nation from the beginning of time!
“Her house is a highway to the grave leading down to the chambers of death!” Proverbs 7:27
While you are sane, while you have command of your faculties, regularly rehearse the tragic end—all that you will lose—envision the miserable consequences. Set them before you.
It is far easier to avoid sexual sin and temptation than it is to resist it. I beg you for your own sake, for the sake of your family, for the honor of the Lord Jesus Christ and the purity of your church family. 1. Hide God’s word in your heart. 2. Don’t let your heart turn to her ways. 3. Don’t even go near her door. 4. Look past her to her many casualties and the chambers of death. –if you love your soul.
I appeal to your nobility! You are not an irrational animal. You are not merely a creature that follows its instincts—a bird, a deer, an ox! You are ‘image of God’—royalty. I appeal to your royal blood. Think and act like a prince among princes! That is your noble calling! Amen.