This morning, we’re going to close out our study of the book of Proverbs, or at least my portion of it. In a couple of weeks, I’ve got to be out of town and I believe Tom is planning on preaching one more lesson out of Proverbs, but this will be the last lesson that I share with you.
And I hope that this series of lessons has been helpful to you, because Proverbs is just filled with practical advice, as Solomon talks about things that all of us deal with every single day. And so, for the past couple of months, we’ve been talking about how God’s wisdom helps us to make good choices – choices regarding how we handle our anger, what words we speak, how we spend our time and our money. And, this morning, I want us to look at what Solomon has to say about the choices we make in regard to sex.
For whatever reason, Christians often seem hesitant to talk about sex, especially from the pulpit. But God is the creator of our sexuality. He created it for us to enjoy. Sex is a gift from God. And so, this morning, we’re going to talk about what the Bible has to say about our sexuality and how to guard and protect it.
Now, I use those two words intentionally, because the book of Proverbs uses them. Solomon is going to tell us how to protect our sexuality, how to guard ourselves. And the use of those words tells us that our sexuality is valuable. Some people may say that the Bible downplays the value of sex, when in fact, the very opposite is true. The Bible teaches us that our sexuality is something we need to place a very high value on.
God tells us that we need to be diligent to guard and protect our sexuality. Now, the only reason you guard or protect anything is because you think it’s valuable. In an art museum, you only guard those paintings that are most valuable. In a bank, you guard the vault because of the valuable things that are in it. And Proverbs will teach us how to guard and protect our sexuality because of how valuable it is.
I don’t need to tell you that, in our society today, sexual sin is extremely prevalent. And many would point to the 1970’s as the time when things really began to shift in regard to our attitude in America toward sex. But, the truth is, as long as there has been sin in this world, there has been sexual sin. And I’m not one of those preachers who gets all freaked out and up in arms when non-Christians are doing non-Christian things. That shouldn’t surprise us because it’s always been that way.
And while we may think that sexual temptation is stronger today than ever before because of such things as television and the Internet, I would suggest that reading through the Bible will remind us that sexual temptation has always been a powerful force, because the two sins that are mentioned more often in the Bible than any other are idolatry and sexual immorality.
So, I understand that we live in a sexually immoral world. We always have, and as long as we live on this earth, we always will. But it is especially hurtful to see Christians who have been drawn into sexually immorality. And, over the years, I’ve seen the damage left behind by married Christians who had an affair, or young Christians who had sex outside of marriage.
It’s one of those sins that doesn’t usually overnight. It can develop over a period of years. Because that’s the nature of sexual sin. It can be so seductive and dangerous because it usually starts out small and seems to be innocent, but before you realize it, your life has been ruined, and you won’t even see it coming.
I understand that sexual sin is appealing; it promises pleasure and happiness and, the truth is, it can actually deliver those things for a little while. Hebrews 11:25 talks about the “fleeting pleasures of sin”. But the key word there is “fleeting”, which means it won’t last forever, and in the end, it brings heartache and pain.
Sexual sin may cause you to walk away from God, or at least redefine “God” as someone who is OK with your sin. Sexual sin can cost you your family, your reputation, and the respect of your children. Or it may just warp your ideas of intimacy in marriage and drive a wedge between you and your wife, or your future wife. There are a thousand different ways that sexual sin can affect you negatively, but make no mistake — it will affect you. Which is why Solomon spends so much time warning us about it in the book of Proverbs.
He starts off in Proverbs 5:1 (NLT), “My son, pay attention to my wisdom; listen carefully to my wise counsel.”
These are the words of a father speaking to his son. This is the heart of God our Father speaking to us, his sons and his daughters – warning us, telling us just how valuable our sexuality is and how we need to protect it. While Solomon is speaking to his son, keep in mind that God’s wisdom is not just for young boys who need to learn how to become wise and godly men. It’s for all of us, men and women of all ages.
But, here, Solomon warns his son. Incidentally, this is a parental responsibility that Moms and Dads have with their children. You need to have “the talk” with your kids; in fact, you need to have multiple talks. I understand that it can be a painfully awkward conversation. But it’s a necessary conversation.
Parents, you need to be the experts on sex with your children. Do not hand that responsibility over to TV, the Internet, or your children ‘s friends simply because talking about it might be awkward for you.
And churches also need to be experts on sex instead of avoiding the subject. God talks a lot about it. Sex is a beautiful gift from God, and we need to proclaim the beauty of sex within the context of marriage as Solomon does in the book of Proverbs, and later on, in Song of Solomon.
Solomon begins his warning in Proverbs 5:3, “For the lips of an immoral woman are as sweet as honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil.”
From the very start, there is this tension of how things are going to turn out. “Which direction is Solomon’s son going to go? Who’s he going to listen to? Is he going to listen to his father, or is he going to be swayed by this immoral woman?”
Let me make an important observation at this point. This figure of an immoral woman represents the temptation to sexual sin. This is a father talking to his son, and so it only makes sense that the person he’s going to warn him about is a woman. If he were talking to his daughter, he’d warn her about an immoral man. In fact, the truth is that men probably do more of this sort of predatory seduction than women do. All of that is to say that this section applies equally to women, too. You just need to reverse the image.
Solomon is going to tell us that the temptation to commit sexual sin primarily comes through two avenues.
1. Temptation Through Words
Again, in Proverbs 5:3 (NLT), “For the lips of an immoral woman are as sweet as honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil.”
Proverbs 6:24 (NLT), talking about wisdom, “It will keep you from the immoral woman, from the smooth tongue of a promiscuous woman.”
Proverbs 7:4-5 (NLT), “Love wisdom like a sister; make insight a beloved member of your family. Let them protect you [notice those words – let them protect you] from an affair with an immoral woman, from listening to the flattery of a promiscuous woman.”
This seductress is a charmer with her words. And yes, men are quite capable of doing the same thing. Communication is usually the first way you are drawn into sexual sin. Alluring words will try to pull you away from your marriage vows. Alluring words will try to get you to give up your virginity.
These words are tempting to men because they tend to be suckers for flattery. Most men will fall for anything that’s said that will build up their pride. But, these words are also tempting to women because of their insecurities. Most women will fall for anything that’s said that will make them feel loved and wanted.
Sexual unfaithfulness usually starts with communication. And that communication may seem innocent at first. The woman in the cubicle beside you at work laughs at your jokes. The old boyfriend on Facebook interacts with you at a level that makes you feel important. Your friend at the gym seems to understand you better than your wife does. You think to yourself that a few text messages back and forth, even if they are a little flirty in nature, are not that big a deal.
And it’s easy for us to justify it by saying things like, “Well, I wouldn’t be doing this if my husband would just listen to me.” Or, “You don’t understand. My wife doesn’t respect me like this woman does.” And, if you find yourself saying something like that, you need to hear the Jaws theme music playing in the background. Repeatedly emailing, texting, calling, or meeting up with someone of the opposite sex who is not your spouse is a major issue. You may think it is harmless, but it’s not. You are forging an emotional intimacy through communication that can lead to something more.
But the smooth words that lead to sexual sin may not be coming from one particular individual. They may be messages that we get bombarded with in our culture. Things like, “Being unfaithful to your spouse is no big deal, as long as you don’t get caught.” Or, “It’s OK to have sex before marriage. How else will you know if you’re compatible with that person?” Or, “Everybody’s doing it. And if you don’t, you’re a weirdo.” Or, the one we seem to hear the most – “Do whatever makes you happy.”
And, if there’s one thing worse than that, it would have to be those people who want to drag God into their sin and say, “I’m going to do this, because God just wants me to be happy.” The truth is, God is a lot more concerned with your holiness than he is your happiness, because he knows happiness is fleeting, but holiness will lead to a deep joy in your life.
Or maybe it’s the smooth-talking message in your own head: “If I don’t give him want he wants, he won’t have anything to do with me, and I’ll never find someone to marry.” Or, “My husband isn’t as romantic with me as he should be, so I deserve something better.”
For some women, it might be reading romance novels, books that cause you to emotionally invest in a man who is not your husband. Books that cause you to be dis-satisfied with your husband. That lead you to say things like, “I wish my husband was more sensitive to my needs like the man in this book.” “I wish my husband was romantic like this man in the book.” “I wish my husband listened to my inner-most thoughts like the man in this book.”
But often, those smooth words come from another person. Guys will often say whatever they need to say to get a girl into bed. They will feed them whatever line they have to in order to get sex: “If you really love me, you’ll do this.” Or, “You’re special to me. You mean more to me than the world.” Or, “If you don’t do this, I’ll find someone else who will.” Sexual sin starts with communication—with words.
In Proverbs chapter 7, Solomon tells a story that focuses on this woman’s smooth words. From his house, Solomon watches a young man who gets caught up in the temptation to commit sin.
“I saw some naive young men, and one in particular who lacked common sense. He was crossing the street near the house of an immoral woman, strolling down the path by her house.” (Proverbs 7:7-8)
Many times, we want to ask the question, “Where’s the line? How far is too far? How close can I get without going too far?” And the answer the Bible gives over and over is, “Flee immorality!” In Proverbs 5:8, Solomon said to his son, “Stay away from her! Don’t go near the door of her house!”
I’m not going to tell you how close can you get without going too far. But I will say that sexual sin is like the undertow at the beach. The closer you get, the greater the pull is going to be, and the greater the likelihood that you will go too far.
But Solomon says this young man went strolling down the path by the house of this immoral woman. He’s at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person, so it doesn’t surprise us when the wrong thing happens. She tempts him with her words:
“She threw her arms around him and kissed him, and with a brazen look she said, ‘I’ve just made my peace offerings and fulfilled my vows. You’re the one I was looking for! I came out to find you, and here you are! My bed is spread with beautiful blankets, with colored sheets of Egyptian linen. I’ve perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let’s drink our fill of love until morning. Let’s enjoy each other’s caresses.’” (Proverbs 7:13-18)
Notice what she does. She flatters him with her words – “You’re just the one I’ve been waiting for! You’re so special!” She inflates his ego, perhaps in a way that his wife hasn’t. She even uses religious talk to ease his conscience – “God won’t be mad; I’ve already offered sacrifices at the temple. We can be forgiven.” And in verses 19-20, she assures him that no one will ever find out.
“…for my husband is not home. He’s away on a long trip. He has taken a wallet full of money with him and won’t return until later this month.” (Proverbs 7:19-20)
“We won’t get caught. No one has to know.” This idea that, “no one will ever find out” is probably the biggest lie that sexual temptation has. Because sin is always found out. Somebody knows about it. Of course, God always knows, but other people will almost certainly find out. You can’t keep secret sin a secret forever.
But the words of this seductress woman are successful.
“So she seduced him with her pretty speech and enticed him with her flattery. He followed her at once, like an ox going to the slaughter. He was like a stag caught in a trap.” (Proverbs 7:21-22)
Temptation to sexual sin usually begins with words.
2. Temptation Through Looks
But Solomon says there another way that we are tempted to commit sexual sin, and that’s through looks. Attraction can draw you into sexual sin.
Solomon warns his son in Proverbs 6:25 (NIV), “Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes.” Lust starts in the heart, but it comes about because of what we see with our eyes. We get attracted by the things we see with our eyes, and that draws us into sin. It starts with fantasies in the mind.
It might be pornography, inappropriate TV shows, or sexually explicit movies. Pornography is a brutal killer right now because you can get it on your cell phone, iPad, or computer with very little effort. Which ought to be a warning to parents about giving their children unmonitored access to the Internet. Men especially are creatures of sight, so be careful what you look at.
And we also need to say a word to women about modesty. I would never presume to set any specific rules for what you can or cannot wear. But I would say, please be conscious of how men are affected by the clothing you wear. Because men are tempted by what they see more than anything else.
The temptation toward sexual sin begins with the words that you hear, and the things that you see.
So how do we fight this battle? Let me tell you how I don’t think we should fight it. The answer is not just to tell your kids, “Don’t have sex until you get married.” Now I think we ought to tell them that. But, if we think that just saying that will keep them from sexual sin, we’re being extremely naïve. Because the temptation of sex is just too powerful.
But, I do think there are two very important things that we can do.
1. Understand the Purpose of Sex
We need to understand why God created sex. Sex wasn’t man’s idea. God created it for a very specific purpose.
Genesis 1:27-28a, (ESV), “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it…’”
One of the purposes for sex is procreation. God gives Adam and Eve a commandment to go have sex and make babies. And, for centuries, the church argued that procreation was the only purpose for sex. But that’s just not true. If that was the only reason God created sex, then why did he create sex the way he did?
God designed sex in such a way that we have face-to-face contact, with our entire bodies touching and mingling. And there is pleasure involved.
Listen to Solomon in Proverbs 5:15-19 (NLT), “Drink water from your own well–share your love only with your wife. Why spill the water of your springs in the streets, having sex with just anyone? You should reserve it for yourselves. Never share it with strangers. Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. She is a loving deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love.”
Now, it’s probably been a while since you heard someone say in church, “Let her breasts satisfy you always.” But our young people need to hear this. God designed sex to provide pleasure.
In the Song of Solomon, the Bible describes, in very vivid terms, the sexual experience between a husband and his wife. He starts at her feet, works his way up to her hips, and then continues all the way up to the top of her head. He’s not just trying to conceive a child. In a very tender and caring way, this is a man who is enjoying and exploring every square inch of his wife’s body.
There is something so much deeper and more intimate than the act of simply conceiving a child. And God had something more in mind when he created sex.
In Genesis 2:23-24 (ESV), “Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
God created Adam and Eve. He brought them together and married them. The two of them physically and spiritually became one flesh. Physically, they became one flesh through sex. Spiritually, they became one flesh by God joining them together in the covenant of marriage. God takes two people and forms them into one. That’s what marriage is.
Which is why Jesus said, “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate” (Mark 10:9, ESV)
God takes two people, joins them together into one, through a covenant with each other and with him. But there’s something else going on here, and Paul tells us what that is in Ephesians 5:31-32 (ESV),
“‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”
Back in Genesis, the purpose of the union of the flesh was a mystery. But now, it has been revealed. It’s a picture of the covenant union of Jesus Christ and his church. That’s why God created marriage.
The primary purpose of marriage is not for your happiness. The primary purpose of marriage is not for your companionship. The primary purpose for marriage is for you and your spouse to be a living, breathing, physical picture to the world of Jesus and his bride.
So how does sex fit into that picture? We’ve already talked about how something deeper is going on with sex than just procreation. When you make love on your wedding night, and every time after that, you are displaying your love for each other. But that’s snot the only thing going on.
God created sex to be a physical reminder and a picture of the covenant we have with God through Jesus Christ. That’s why it’s face-to-face, intermingled bodies, one flesh.
Yes, God created sex for physical needs, to display love and to make babies. But, ultimately, it is a reminder of our covenant with our spouse and our covenant with God.
And once we understand that, then it explains why sex outside of the covenant of marriage is so destructive, and why it creates emotional turmoil and baggage. God did not create sex to be experienced between two people that are not in a covenant relationship.
And so, sex outside of the covenant of marriage is almost always accompanied by guilt, shame and remorse. In its right context, sex is one of the most fulfilling and amazing things you can ever experience. But as some of you have discovered, sex outside of its intended purpose can be horribly destructive to our souls.
Young men, who are single, need to take the lead in that. You need to guard your girlfriend’s soul. If you are pressuring her physically to have sex before the covenant, what you are saying to her is that you care more about your physical needs than you do her soul. And that is harmful to her in ways you won’t realize until years later.
And ladies, don’t marry a man that cares more about his physical needs than he does your soul. Because that will come back to bite you in ways you have no idea.
A sexual experience that is purely physical, but doesn’t also have the spiritual element, is at best a mere shadow of what God intended it to be. And the best sex you will ever have is not when you are experiencing just the physical pleasure of sex, but when you are also experiencing the spiritual purpose of it.
So, the first thing we need to do to guard ourselves against sexual temptation is to understand the true purpose of sex. The second thing is to….
2. Have a Strong Relationship With God
Remember, we said back at the beginning of Proverbs 5, that the immoral woman was regarded as a rival to the father. The question there was, “Who is this boy going to listen to? Who is going to be drawn toward?” If the son embraces this forbidden woman, it will show that he has rejected his father.
Sexual sin and spiritual sin are connected throughout the Bible. Remember I said that the two sins that are mentioned most frequently in the Bible are idolatry and sexual immorality. And, most of the time, the two are connected. Adultery is a distortion of the most intimate human relationship, and it is used as a metaphor to speak of the distortion of our intimate relationship to God.
To put it another way, if our horizontal relationships are off, it lets us know that our vertical relationship with God is off as well.
Someone once said, “The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.” Which may sound strange at first, but I believe there’s a great deal of truth in it.
Because I believe that many people who get caught up in sexual immorality are looking to feel loved and wanted in a way that only God can provide. They’re looking to experience relationship in a way that only God can provide. They’re looking for a level of intimacy that only God can provide.
And perhaps that the saddest thing about Christians who get caught up in sexual immorality, is that they’re searching for something that’s missing in their lives, with a heavenly Father who’s there ready and anxious to provide everything they want and need.
Now, as I close this lesson, there’s one more thing that I need to talk about, because God’s standard for holiness and purity is high, but there are many of us who have fallen short. And we need the reminder that…
GOD’S GRACE GIVES US HOPE
Keep in mind who wrote the book of Proverbs. This is Solomon. He’s the one saying, “Whatever you do, don’t give into sexual temptation.” But the way Solomon lived out his life didn’t exactly match what he taught.
“He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.” (1 Kings 11:3-4, ESV)
Solomon had more wisdom than anyone who’s ever lived (with the exception of Jesus), but he still messed up. We all need wisdom to make good choices. But when we make bad choices, we also need the reminder that there is an incredible grace that comes through Jesus Christ.
The truth is, we’re all going to fail at times. Now, we can’t use that as an excuse to not even try to do what’s right. But, the only way we can live without being absolutely crushed by feelings of guilt and shame is to trust in the hope, mercy, love, kindness, and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
I don’t know what your story is, but I can tell you that there’s grace for you. No matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, no matter how much shame you’re feeling right now, God’s grace is available.