My last official responsibility as a Youth Minister involved taking a busload of senior-high students to Washington, D.C. for a leadership conference. We arrived a day early to take in some of the sights around our nation's capitol. After driving all night, we checked into our hotel. After changing clothes we got back on the bus to travel to Mt. Vernon. As we pulled out of the parking lot one of the students in the back of the bus hollered up to the front, "Rick, there's smoke coming out of our hotel." I looked back and sure enough there was smoke billowing out of the roof.. In my ever nonchalant-it-will-work-out-way, I said, "Oh, I'm sure it's nothing. Drive on, driver. We'll check it out when we get back."
When we came back to our hotel that afternoon, I discovered that it was something. A fire had broken out on one of the floors. We, along with all the people staying at the hotel, could not get back in for security reasons. So for the next four days we were not allowed back inside. Each night following the conference we, along with all the participants staying at the Hilton, would wait in the conference center for instructions as to where we would be staying that night. We stayed in a different hotel for four consecutive nights. (We did buy toiletries and underwear, in case you were wondering.)
One night we were booked into a hotel that was by far the nicest of them all - first class all the way. As usual it was approaching midnight by the time we arrived. I quickly found my room and got ready for bed. I had just settled in when there was a knock on the door. "Rick! Cindy!" several of the students screamed, "you've got to see this!"
"What?" I said, wondering what kind of accident had happened.
"Come look out our window!"
Our room faced the courtyard. Some of the students' rooms looked out over a street.
I walked across the hall and looked out the window. Across the street from this luxury hotel was a corner that prostitutes worked. A dozen prostitutes lined the street, dressed in their seductive and revealing clothes that were gaudy and tasteless, waving at cars. Many called out to the drivers that came by. Some got in.
"Look at the boots that one under the street light has on."
"I'll bet it took two cows to provide the leather for those."
"That one was only gone twenty minutes," remarked one of the teenage girls.
"Gross!" replied another.
I broke up the party, instructing the students to go to bed. Alone.
There is nothing new about what we witnessed that night. Prostitutes have plied their trade for thousands of years. The earliest written records of life in the Middle East mention prostitution a part of the culture. They feed on the loneliness, boredom, lust, and insecurity of their customers. The demand for their services does not wane.
It was a similar scene that Solomon viewed from the window of his home. A prostitute ventures out at dusk. She attires herself in seductive and revealing clothes to lure a man to her bed. A young man who lacks judgment and common sense walks down the street on this very night. He rounds the corner as the seductress spies him like a wild animal laying in wait for its next victim. She promises love, affection, and romance. Her talk is tantalizing and persuasive. Her dress is revealing and enticing.
Adrenaline and hormones race through the young man's system. In one cataclysmic moment the young man falls prey to her seductive words and body. He crosses the line. His life is forever changed, and not for the good.
Solomon does not tell this story so the Bible will get a PG-13 rating, but to instruct about sexual purity. They are clear and to the point. His words are filled with warning. His intent is for his readers to draw a line for sexual purity and not cross it.
I. Sexual purity begins with being a people of the Word (vv. 1-5)
What is Solomon talking about? What does he mean by my advice? My commands? My teachings? What are we to tie on our fingers? What are we to write deep within our hearts? The single answer to each question is God's Word.
The Psalmist posed a similar question, "How can a young man keep his way pure?" His conclusion: "By keeping Your word" (Psa. 119:9).
When Jesus prayed for the welfare of the disciples he was about to leave behind, he asked the Father to "Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth" (John 17:17). God's Word sanctifies us. It sets us apart from the rest of the world. It makes us holy, clean, consecrated for God's higher purposes. And in the sexual realm of life, it informs us that satisfaction and fulfillment comes in the context of marriage.
We live in a world that wants us to believe the opposite. Our culture bombards us with words, images, advertisements, movies, television, pictures that sex before marriage is fun, freeing, and fulfilling. It would be easy to get sucked into that lie, to be overwhelmed by culture's onslaught, if we were not people of the Word. God's Word sanctifies us and keeps our way pure.
We're all familiar with the saying "Garbage in, garbage out." I propose that the opposite is true, too: Purity in, purity out. David wrote of Scripture, "The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in an earthen furnace, purified seven times" (Psa. 12:6). When I immerse my mind and heart in the flawless, purified words of God, the siren song of popular culture sounds like what it is: a hideous croak. If we hope to be sexually pure in the midst of a sex-orientated culture, we must replace the worldly thinking with God's thoughts, found in his word. His ideas of right and wrong, his promises, and his teachings must saturate our souls. Regular, consistent exposure to God's word is the only combatant to the alluring lies of our culture.
II. Sexual purity entails fleeing from tempting situations (vv. 6-9)
Solomon describes a scene. "At the window of my house I looked through my lattice. I saw among the inexperienced, I noticed among the youths, a young man lacking sense. Crossing the street near her corner, he strolled down the road to her house at twilight, in the evening, in the dark of the night" (Prov. 7:6-9). Solomon describes a young man that was at the wrong place, at the wrong time, in the wrong frame of mind. Solomon says he lacked common sense. The NIV says he lacked judgment. He knew where he was going and why. He was going into no-man's land. And that is dangerous territory.
A transport company placed a very important ad in a local newspaper that read: "WANTED: Conscientious and experienced truck driver to transport TNT across narrow mountain roads. Pay is very good."
Three brave drivers interviewed for the job. The foreman asked each of them this question: "When you turn a corner on tight mountain road, how close to the edge can you drive without slipping off?"
The first driver responded, "Oh, I've had years' experience at that! I can get as close as a foot from the edge."
The second applicant said, "I can hang the outside edge of my tire over the edge and still stay on the road."
The third man replied, "I respect the load and the danger. I would never get close enough to find out."
Guess who got the job?
Sex is like TNT. It is dangerous. Some people think they can play with it and not get hurt. Some people think they can walk right up to the line and have the will power to not cross over. Some people think they can handle this explosive, but they like the man in Solomon's story lack common sense and judgment.
Let's own up to it: There are certain things we cannot handle. And we should know where the line of sexual purity is and then back away from it. There are certain films, videos, and pictures in magazines that you and I cannot handle. There are certain television shows and late-night channels we have no business watching. There are certain websites we should avoid. There are certain times we should not even be on the computer. There are certain people who, by their stimulating conversations weaken us. There are certain clothes that should not be worn. There are certain rooms that one should never be in with the opposite sex.
There are settings too tempting, touches too personal, and liberties that are too much for us to handle. We are fools to play around with them. They create appealing temptations we simply cannot control.
Granted, we can't avoid all sexual stimuli, but in Martin Luther's terms, "You can't keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from making a nest in your hair." Or put another way, "If you are on a diet, don't go to the doughnut shop."
When it comes to sexual temptation the Bible is quite clear on the appropriate strategy. And that strategy is to run away. "Flee from sexual immorality" (1 Cor. 6:18). Don't debate it. Don't resist it. Don't see how close to the line you can come. Don't flirt with it. Run. Run fast. Run hard.
III. Sexual purity is strengthened by rehearsing the consequences. (vv. 21-23, 26-27)
Solomon minces no words. To cross the line into sexual impurity will cost you. It will not be a pretty picture.
Slaughter. Have you ever been to a slaughter house? It can make even the strongest of people lose their lunch.
Trapped. Have you ever heard the desperate yelp of an animal caught in a trap knowing that death is imminent? It will cause you agony.
Snare. Have you seen a bird caught in a web or net unable to free itself? It is a pitiful and tragic sight. Take anyone of those pictures and in similar ways is the consequence when one crosses the line into sexual immorality.
I met with a man who had been a leader in a Christian organization until he fell into immorality. I asked him, "What could have been done to prevent this?"
He paused for a moment, then said with haunting pain and precision, "If only I had really known, really thought through, what it would cost me and my family and my Lord, I honestly believe I never would have done it."
A law of physics says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The same is true for sin. One does not sin in isolation. Sin not only affects the sinner, but the offended and others.
The next time you are tempted to cross the line, rehearse the possible consequences of your actions.
You may contract a sexually transmitted disease like gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, or AIDS. And perhaps infecting your spouse or future spouse, even causing death. You may possibly cause pregnancy, with the personal and financial implications of a child.
You will relieve the experience in your mind over and over again. It's often said the mind is like a computer. The one noticeable difference, however, is that a computer's memory can be erased. Whereas what you experience, especially sexually, is retained for life. Your mind keeps a permanent file of the input assimilated through the senses. Those memories and flashbacks could plague future intimacy with your spouse. And to add to your mental anguish, you will carry around the added torment of wondering do other people know what you have done.
You will venture down a path that may lead to addiction. Psychiatrists and therapists who work with various addictions say that sexual addictions are more powerful than alcohol and drug addictions with a lower successful transformation rate.
You may lose your self-respect. You may invoke shame and embarrassment upon yourself. You will create a form of guilt that is hard to shake. Even though God would forgive you, you may find it hard to forgive yourself.
You may lose your job. You may forfeit your status. You may waste years of training and experience because of having to change careers due to impropriety and immorality.
You will destroy your example and credibility with your family. You will lose the respect and trust of your spouse and family members. You may lose your spouse and your children forever. You may cause shame to your family.
You will grieve the Lord who redeemed you. You will drag his name in the mud.
Do you see why Solomon uses the examples of a slaughter house, a trap, and a snare?
Periodically reviewing and rehearsing the consequences cuts through the fog of rationalization and filling our hearts with the healthy, motivating fear of God.
In the preceding chapter Solomon asks some pointed questions, "Can a man embrace fire and his clothes not be burned? Can a man walk on coals without scorching his feet? So it is with the one who sleeps with another man's wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished" (Prov. 6:27-29). The warning has been issued: When you cross the line into sexual immorality there are certain and distinct consequences.
IV. Sexual purity continues as we guard our minds (vv. 24-25)
In Hebrew thought the heart was the center and seat of the emotions. The heart controlled the behavior and actions of a person. The heart is like the control tower of the life that directs the desires, thoughts, reasoning, intentions, and will of a person. The heart is like a switch house that receives freight cars loaded with moods, ideas, emotions, and convictions and puts them on the right track.
Elsewhere Solomon wrote, "For as he thinks within himself, so he is" (Prov. 23:7). Jesus said, "For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities . . ." (Matt. 15:19), and ". . . everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matt. 5:28). Regardless of outward behavior, the true test of sexual purity is our thought life. It is what we allow to enter our minds and what we choose to dwell on.
What we do is extremely important, of course. But what we think determines what we do. Consequently, the only effective and lasting way to change our behavior is to change our minds.
There's a large railroad switchyard in St. Louis. One switch that begins with just the thinnest piece of steel directs a train away from one main track and onto another. If you follow those two tracks, you'll find that one ends in San Francisco, the other in New York.
Our thought life, our mind, is a lot like that switch. The seemingly simple choice of what we set our minds on can determine the outcome of our sexual purity. Solomon wrote, "Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life" (Prov. 4: 23). The doorway to the mind is through the eyes and ears. They must be guarded. Remember the seductive lady in Solomon story. Her seduction was with what she wore and what she said. To guard our minds we must guard what we see and hear.
As a crew-cut Sunday schooler, I used to sing with gusto, "O be careful little feet where you go . . . little ears what you hear . . . little eyes what you see . . . little hands what you do." Little did I know then that so much about purity, especially sexual purity, would be about wrestling over what my eyes would see, what my ears would hear, where my feet would go, what my hands would do.
The line is for sexual purity. Will you draw your mark in the sand and determine to not cross over it?
The judge looked down from his bench and, in a somber voice, declared, "Mr. Wilson, this is your day of reckoning!" Then he sentenced the man to seven-and-a-half years in federal prison.
Wilson was one of four California men convicted of sexual misconduct and sentenced to prison in that particular case. Five men were originally investigated, but the fifth, Mark Jacobs, was not arrested and charged. Jacobs had been invited to join in the escapade by four friends. They had assured him that they would not get caught and that their plan was totally legal. Yet something inside him said it wasn't right.
The lawyers for the four convicted men pleaded with the judge that their clients had simply made mistakes of poor judgment. They loved their wives and their children, and gave to charities.
The judge agreed. "It is not hard to determine where the line is," he said. "The guy who drew the line is Mark Jacobs. He knew what was right and what was wrong, and he didn't hesitate. Hopefully, now we will have fewer people who are willing to walk up to the line and dabble with going over the line. We will have people like Mark Jacobs who wouldn't touch this thing with a 10-foot pole."
Will you draw the line? Will you determine not to cross the line of sexual purity? Will you make that commitment today? A commitment to your God, yourself, your family, your friends, your mate and your children?