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Helping our Men Win the Battle for Sexual Purity Dr. Rick L. Holland Pastor, College and Student Ministries Our culture is facing a crisis of epidemic proportions. It is a crisis that has become the Trojan horse for the destruction of marriages, families, and churches. The crisis is the crisis of moral purity. We wake up every day to a world that has gotten just a little more drunk on the bottle of lust. Consider the Pornography industry… The March 5, 2001 issue of Christianity Today records staggering statistics about Internet pornography use in general, as well as how pastors have fallen into the yawning grave of the web themselves. In August of 2000, CT conducted an exclusive survey of its readership—both laity and clergy—on the issue of Internet pornography. • • • • • 33% of clergy and 36% of laity say they have visited a sexually explicit site. Online porn revenues increased from $52 million in 1996 to more than $2 billion in 1999. There are estimated 266 new porn sites added to the Internet every day. "Adult" entertainment is estimated to be the largest sector of sales on the Internet. Google search engine says that approaching 12 % the 1.6 billion sites it searches are pornographic.
Yet with all that, the vast majority of Americans (94%) believe a ban on Internet pornography should be legal. What has made this industry what it is? • The “three A’s of cybersex”= accessibility, anonymity, and affordability. I have counseled so many of our college-age men about their addiction to Internet pornography that I have lost count. But it doesn’t stop there. LUST HAS NO AGE LIMITS. The morality crisis is more than Internet porn. It lays its traps everywhere! I can’t even read the sports page in the newspaper without being confronted with moral choices! How can we keep our lives and the men we work with pure? Is it really as simple as “Just say NO?” Sexual sin is not the playground the Hugh Heffner has made it out to be, it is a battlefield on which people are destroyed in both time and eternity! But the Bible is not silent on the cause and cure for immorality. And there are many places we could turn to for clear instruction—1 Samuel 12, Ecclesiastes 2, Matthew 5, or 1 Thessalonians 4. All these and many more passages inform the issue of purity. But there is a special chapter of the Word of God that I believe might be the most comprehensive in approach. This passage is the text of Proverbs 5.
Background Chapter 5 is the heart of the parental section of Proverbs which extends from 1:9-9:18. Solomon is having a “father-son” talk. THERE IS A WONDERFUL PRACTICAL THEOLOGY HERE! The primary instruction about sexual issues ought to take place between parents and children. It might interest you to know that in this section there are five distinct discourses devoted to sexual purity. Solomon is exceedingly qualified to speak on the subject of sexual excesses and sin. 1 Kings 11:4 tells us that his heart had been led away from the Lord by 700 wives and 300 concubines! So, Solomon’s words can serve to sober up a generation intoxicated with sex. The amount of space that Solomon gives to this subject leaves us in no doubt that that he saw sexual sin as the greatest hazard lying in the path of young men. For this seminar, I want to sketch this chapter and encourage you to go back and unpack it in your own heart and with your own men when you get home. In Proverbs 5 Solomon lays out a blueprint for sexual purity. In this chapter we can identify SIX STRATEGIES that will ensure a passion for purity. 1. UNDERTAKE THE PURSUIT OF BIBLICAL INSTRUCTION (VV. 1-2). 5:1 MY son, give attention to my wisdom, Incline your ear to my understanding; 2 That you may observe discretion, And your lips may reserve knowledge. First notice that Solomon is calling his son to hear HIS (“my”) wisdom. What was Solomon’s wisdom regarding sex? This wisdom was obtained from his wisdom given him from the Lord (1Kings 3), as well as his experience chronicled in 1Kings 11 and Ecclesiastes 2:8, 9-10. This call to attention has a note of urgency! Literally, “bend your ear toward me.” What is the purpose? To have “discretion” (or moral purity) and your lips my “reserve knowledge”—in other words, you will know what to say to seduction. There is an important principle in these verses: LISTEN UP TO WISE UP! For us that means to listen to the full revelation of Word of God. We are to UNDERTAKE THE PURSUIT OF BIBLICAL INSTRUCTION. For Solomon’s son this meant listen to Daddy. For us it means listen to our Heavenly Father. 2. UNDRESS THE DECEPTION OF SEXUAL SIN (VV. 3-6). 3 For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, And smoother than oil is her speech; Who is this “adulteress?” The Hebrew word means: “foreigner” or “strange woman. The NIV translates the term “wayward wife.” Perhaps the best understanding for us is to see the adulteress woman here as ANYONE WHO WOULD ENCOURAGE US TOWARD ANY KIND OF SEXUAL EXPERIENCE
OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE. To borrow from what is coming in vv. 15ff, the adulterous woman is any “cistern” that is not your wife. Footnote: gender can’t be taken too far here. Daughters need to be warned in this area as well. In some senses they need the stronger warning to beware of the seductive man! The word, “lips” speaks of the flirtation of her speech. Interestingly, any time the Bible discusses “flirting” it is speaking of a harlot! Prov 29:5 says that flattery is a trap. And the temptress here is described as having flattering lips that “drip with honey.” Honey is an OT image for something good that can go bad. Remember that it was so plentiful in the land of Canaan that the area was described as “flowing with milk and honey.” Prov 25:16 “Have you found honey? Eat only what you need, lest you have it in excess and vomit it.” Prov 27:7 “A sated man (or satisfied soul) loathes honey, But to a famished man any bitter thing is sweet.” “HONEY IS SWEET BUT THE BEE STINGS!” She is a sweet talker as well as a “smooth talker”—Solomon pictures for us not only the taste, but also the consistency of the seduction with the second metaphor. A little coaxing, a little flattery, a little deceit, a little assurance that this is harmless… 4 But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, Sharp as a two-edged sword. Verses 4-6 tell us to undress the seductress’s deception, not her delights. Wormwood was a bitter plant in the Ancient Near East. It looks great to the eye, but is bitter on the palate. “sharp as a two-edged sword” means that it is LETHAL! 5 Her feet go down to death, Her steps lay hold of Sheol. 6 She does not ponder the path of life; Her ways are unstable, she does not know it. • • “feet”= the course of her life “she does not ponder”= the stupidity of not weighing the gravity of cause and effect.
And what is amazing is that in our generation this temptress can be an image on a computer screen. Do you think those images and binary codes are considering the path of life? Two characteristics stand out in these verses that need to be undressed to see their true nature. • She is Persuasive. • She is Dangerous. 3. UNDERSTAND THE VALUE OF SAFE DISTANCE (VV. 7-8).
7 Now then, my sons, listen to me, And do not depart from the words of my mouth. 8 Keep your way far from her, And do not go near the door of her house, This is the “Joseph” principle—RUN!!! The time for this verse is not in the back seat of a car or the closed room of a house. It is when the very thought comes into mind. Practical Footnote: • How do you do personally with this principle of “safe distance?” • Is the glory of God in your mind when you counsel a pretty woman? • Is the weight of your reputation as a man of God heavy on you when you decide how close to stand next to your secretary? • Is the devastation of your life in your mind when a lustful thought engages your passions? • Have you learned to run? If this is a struggle for us or our men, the next six verses give us a terrifying motivation. 4. UNMASK THE REGRET OF SIN’S AFTERMATH (VV. 9-14). 9 Lest you give your vigor to others, And your years to the cruel one; 10 Lest strangers be filled with your strength, And your hard-earned goods go to the house of an alien; 11 And you groan at your latter end, When your flesh and your body are consumed; 12 And you say, “How I have hated instruction! And my heart spurned reproof! 13 “And I have not listened to the voice of my teachers, Nor inclined my ear to my instructors! 14 “I was almost in utter ruin In the midst of the assembly and congregation.” This section is a catalogue of the ruin that occurs from sexual sin. • v. 9= looses dignity and respect • vv. 10-11= wastes his resources • vv. 12-13= filled with remorse • v. 14= public disgrace Verse 14 is a powerful appeal to weigh the transient pleasure against the consequences and ask— “IS IT WORTH IT?” The consequences of immorality are inevitable and unavoidable. It doesn’t matter if you are a bum on the streets, senator, a president or a pastor. When it comes to sexual sin, it’s payday someday! • People talk • Husbands find out
• • • • •
Reporters snoop Pregnancies happen Diseases spread Guilt intensifies God works
The following is an incomplete list I came across of what you have in store after your immorality is found out.
Sexual sin can lead to loss of health, family wealth, reputation, and cause bitter regret. But the most deadly thing sexual sin can do is sear the conscience. A man is destroyed personally and socially in these verses, but don’t forget the damage that sexual sin can have spiritually. The central contrast of the chapter is between the wrong woman we have just seen in vv. 3-14 and the right woman in vv. 15-19. 5. UNLOCK THE SATISFACTION OF MARITAL FIDELITY (VV. 15-19). 15 Drink water from your own cistern, And fresh water from your own well.
The Bible does not blush when it talks about sex in the God-given context of a marriage. Isn’t it interesting that “cistern” is singular here. Could it be that Solomon is subtly teaching us a lesson from his experience here? The inclusion of this section is why I think this chapter is the best springboard for understanding sexual purity. It is not enough to say “stop” and “run”—we must also know what we are to do with the passions that God has given to us. This is Solomon’s prophylactic against sexual sin. He begins with a metaphor of a cistern. This was an underground chamber for storing water. Cisterns were precious commodities in Palestine. And a private cistern was very rare. The picture was that in a dry and arid climate, you could assuage your thirst by going to the cool, fresh, delicious water of your own cistern any time you were thirsty. You could be refreshed any time you wanted! Song of Solomon 4:15 says: “you are a garden spring, a well of fresh water, and springs flowing from Lebanon.”—GET THE PICTURE! 16 Should your springs be dispersed abroad, Streams of water in the streets? 17 Let them be yours alone, And not for strangers with you. There is a lot of debate as to what the “springs” and “streams” are in these verses. But the best way to understand them is to see them in context. The idea is the exclusiveness of a man and woman for each other in a marriage relationship. 18 Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19 As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love. Solomon has interesting ways of talking about his wife… Listen to this description from Song of Solomon chapter 7… • • • • • • • • “Your navel is like a round goblet” “Your belly is like a heap of wheat” “Your neck is like a tower of ivory” “Your eyes are like the pools of Heshbon” “Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon” “Your head crowns you like Carmel” “The flowing locks of your head are like purple threads.” GO BACK HOME AND TRY THAT ON YOUR WIFE!
Are you personally satisfied with your wife? Someone has described this satiation like this: Imagine that you have eaten your favorite meal until you are stuffed full. Then a luscious desert is
brought to you and you are not even tempted—Why? Because you have been satisfied with something else. The best deterrent for sexual sin is a healthy marriage! Solomon provides one final motivation for us to keep sexually pure. And if you haven’t been listening until now, turn up your hearing aid! 6. UNLEASH THE HORROR OF GOD’S OMNISCIENCE (VV. 20-23). 20 For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress, And embrace the bosom of a foreigner? 21 For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the LORD, And He watches all his paths. Mark this: the best antidote for sexual sin is a good healthy dose of the Omnipresence of God! Prov 15:3 “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, watching the evil and the good” Job 34:21 “For His eyes are upon the ways of a man, and He sees all his steps.” Heb 4:13 “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” Sexual sin always seeks secrecy. But sin cannot be concealed from God. He sees and He knows! 22 His own iniquities will capture the wicked, And he will be held with the cords of his sin. 23 He will die for lack of instruction, And in the greatness of his folly he will go astray. This is where the passage takes on a pastoral tone. ARE WE KILLING OUR MEN BY NEGLECTING TO INSTRUCT THEM? A high premium is put on the value of instruction here. The primary referent is obviously a father, but we as pastors are called to the great task of instruction. What do we instruct them? I don’t think we can improve on Jesus words in Matthew 5… 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; 28 but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. 29 “And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 “And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell.
Practical Priorities for Pastoral Implementation…
• • • • • • •
Model purity in your own life. Love your wife with all your heart. Create an atmosphere of grace in your fellowship. Maintain a high view God and His attributes in your preaching. Teach regularly on the glories of marriage. Address your men specifically on purity issues. Shepherd relationships that are accountable.
NOTE: An excellent resource for men struggling with sexual enslavements is… Steve Gallagher, At the Alter of Sexual Idolatry, Pure Life Ministries: 1986 & 2000—[888-2938741; 859-824-4444]
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