by Pastor Jeff King
A few weeks ago, I preached a sermon on Proverbs 5 titled Waging War On Sexual Sin. In this passage, Solomon gives us a great fight plan to wage war on sexual sin. In many ways, this fight plan is effective in battling any and all of our sins—especially sins that cling very close to us.
All Christians know far too well that in this world, we will find ourselves struggling to put sin to death. Sin is constantly seeking to grab a foothold, form roots, and overtake us on a daily basis. New Christians, mature Christians, well-established Christians, and weak Christians alike are all prone to fall prey to temptations, to go astray, and to leave the God we love. If we are to endure to the end, then we must have a plan in place to fight the onslaught of sin’s temptations. Solomon’s timeless wisdom clearly is from the hand of God. We are wise to put his fight plan to work in our lives today. Hear afresh Solomon’s 6 strategies to invoke in our battle against sin:
Strategy 1: We Must Put our Lives Under God’s Word
My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge. (Proverbs 5:1–2)
Solomon is saying, “Incline your ear, my son. Lean into my understanding!” (Ps 119:9) “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to your Word.” Our first step in waging war on sin is to make God’s Word central to our thinking! We must choose NOT to wriggle out from under Biblical instruction, knowing that our flesh will search for ways to go astray!
My wife Christy and I have two daughters. When they were little and we were giving instruction, the girls (like most kids) would get that glazed-over look in their eyes. We would grab them by their chubby little cheeks and say to them, “Give me your eyes/ears, and pay attention.” This is what Solomon is doing here—he’s grabbing Rehoboam by the jawbone and saying, “Listen to this, Son. Don’t you dare drift off and miss it.”
“Incline your ear to my instruction…that you may keep discretion and your lips may guard knowledge…” Why lips? Rehoboam was to know his father’s instructions so well in his heart that when he faced temptation, he could bring them not only to his mind, but he would know them so well that he could speak them back to himself in his soul. Solomon knew that if his son was to be holy and pure, he would need a plan in place to fight when tempted! Do you have a plan for how to fight against sinful temptation? We don’t even have to create our own plan—God has given us a great fight plan. We simply need to know it and put it into practice in the moments of temptation!
Strategy 2: Unmask the Deception of (Sexual) Sin
For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it. (Proverbs 5:3–6)
Rip the mask off of sexual sin. In moments of temptation, sin is often very deceptive. Sin often seems justifiable and right in the moment. In this specific case, Solomon warns his son of the danger of the lips of the adulteress, indicating a warning to be on guard against flirtation that begins with smooth speech. Solomon warns that flattery is a trap! Her lips “drip honey.” They’re smooth like oil. They say the things we love to hear. But, beware! It’s a trap!
The beginning stages of sexual immorality always feel good and seem harmless. “But in the end, she is as bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword…” (v.4) Honey is smooth and sweet. Wormwood is not. When that which is tempting you actually hits the palate, it’s a different flavor altogether. Solomon warns us, “Beware of the seductress’s seduction! Do not be enamored by her delights.”
“She is sharp as a two-edged sword!” She seems sweet, but she is lethal! A machete is sharp on one side of the blade and is used to cut through woods and clear a path. A two-edged sword is even more dangerous. There is not a safe edge! Two-edged swords have one purpose: they are used in battle to kill! “Her feet go down to death. She (the temptress) doesn’t ponder the path of life (or the end result)” (v.5). She’s not considering how this will all end up for you. Oh, the folly of not weighing the cause and effect of sin! It will not end well! In the moment of temptation, she’s persuasive, but she’s lethal! Beware of the dangers of the adulterous and where he or she will take you. It’s a path of destruction! It’s a bitter path that leads to death and ruin. It is not sweet and harmless! All sin is this way. What seems right to our flesh in the moment will lead to misery in the end. If we are to resist sin’s temptation, we must unmask the deception(s) of the sins that tempt us.
Strategy 3: Understand the Value of Safe Distance!
And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house. (Proverbs 5:7–8)
Solomon grabs that jawbone again and says, “Listen up Son!” Run! Get away! Keep distance and plenty of it. The more distance between you and sin, the better. “Don’t go near the door of her house.”
As a 7-year-old child who ran cross-country competitively, I learned this simple principle: The more distance I put between myself and the person behind me, the greater chance I have to win the race. If I let a competitor hang with me heading into the finish line, it’s any man’s race. No amount of distance could be safe enough. A cramp can come at any minute. Fatigue can hit suddenly. As much distance as I could put between me and 2nd place, the better. In a race, every stride matters because each stride has potential to create more distance between me and the person behind me.
In our fight against sexual immorality (and any/all sin), you simply can’t get far enough away to coast, not this side of heaven. You begin to coast or slack off in your resolves, and the distance between safety and temptation shrinks. Your enemy (Satan himself) sees your arms falling, your legs getting wobbly, the fatigue setting in…and he begins to inch closer and closer until there’s no distance at all between you and temptation and he’s got you. The flesh is weak around sin and the pleasures and allurements of sin are strong. If there is not safe distance, you lose.
If we find ourselves asking the question “Where exactly is the line of (sexual) sin?”, we are likely asking the wrong question because it implies that our desire is to get as close to the line of temptation as we can without crossing it. A much better question to ask is, “How much glory can Jesus get from my life? How holy can I be?” If we want to keep ourselves from sin, we must not get as close as we can to temptation and see if we’re strong enough to resist. That is the way of the fool who finds himself unexpectedly caught in a snare and it takes his life. The way to fight our sin is to run away, to flee, to cut off, to gauge out and throw far from you! As the Apostle Paul instructed, “we must make no provision for our flesh” (Romans 13:4).
Strategy 4: Uncover the Regret of Sin’s Aftermath
…lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless, lest strangers take their fill of your strength, & your labors go to the house of a foreigner, and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.” (Proverbs 5:9–14)
These verses are a catalogue of what happens to a person after he/she sins sexually.
- (v 9) → the person loses honor, dignity, and respect.
- (v 10) → the person loses resources as his/her labors go to the house of a foreigner.
- (vv 12-13) → he/she is filled with shame, remorse, and regret.
- (v 14) → the person faces public disgrace.
The consequences of sin are inevitable and unavoidable. God warns of the consequences of sinful actions. The long-term aftermath following our sin is always more severe and more costly than we think about in the moments of temptation, to our peril and shame. When sin runs its course, its end is always destruction.
The Bible, in filling out Godly obedience, never focuses exclusively on the negative (what not to do), but also shows us the positive side (what to do)! A holy life is not exclusively a life of “putting off.” It is also committed to “putting on.”
Strategy 5: Get Drunk on the Blessings of Godly Obedience
Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. (Proverbs 5:15–19)
As Solomon unfolds this fight plan to his son, he is helping him have the right categories to fight off temptations towards sexual immorality. This fight plan includes helping Rehoboam to consider the great blessings of living life within God’s boundaries. There is an appropriate, God-given place to take temptations towards sexual immorality—that place is to take your sexual appetites and bend them all towards your spouse!
“Drink water from your own cistern.” A cistern was an underground storage tank that held lots of water. Most homes didn’t have one. Only the wealthiest possessed them. Solomon is teaching his son the truth that having ONE WIFE is a wealth of precious resource, a storehouse of satisfaction.
The advice couldn’t be more clear: “drink from that cistern.” It’s YOURS. When you’re thirsty, don’t be more spiritual than the Bible. Drink! If you aren’t drunk, drink more! In fact, “…be intoxicated always in her love” (v. 19b). Be satisfied in the blessing of your spouse. It is not sinful in the least to enjoy the blessings of marital love & intimacy. Be nauseously intoxicated & taken with the love shared between you as husband and wife. Let nothing intrude on it!
The Christian life is never one of “putting off” without also “putting on.” If stealing is our sin struggle, the Bible does not merely instruct us to stop stealing, but goes on to prescribe a life of working hard and earning enough to have something to contribute to others who are in need (see Ephesians 4:28). If tearing others down with our words is our sin struggle, God frees the Christian up to a life of “building others up with our words” (see Ephesians 4:29). If lying and deceiving others is our sin struggle, the gospel frees up the Christian to “speak the truth with his neighbor in love” (see Ephesians 4:25).
As we fight to put sin to death, we would do well to recount the great blessings of living life within God’s prescribed boundaries. As we labor to put sin to death, we also labor to put on actions fitting one who has been born of imperishable seed. A life of faithful obedience to God is truly a blessed life, even when our flesh is being put to death.
Strategy 6: Unleash the Power of God’s Omniscience
Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress? For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths. (Proverbs 5:20–21)
No matter what a person’s ways consist of, we live all of life under God’s divine omniscience. Our ways are always and forever under the eyes of God! We live all of life under His gaze at all times! Psalm 139 reminds us that “If I go up to the heavens, You are there. If I find myself at the bottom of the sea, You are there!” There is nowhere that we can run away and hide from God! God sees everything and is everywhere all the time! We are never alone! When we’re saved, we are given the very best accountability partner in the world—God Himself is always with us and sees EVERYTHING. We would do well to remember that when we sin, we sin before the eyes of God who knows and sees everything! This reality is the help we need to truly walk uprightly!
If we are to live holy and pure lives in this world, then we must unleash the power of God’s omniscience. Avoiding sin is never primarily about behavior modification. Rather, it is about living life in the presence of God! A.W. Tozer has famously said, “In the moment of sin, every man is a practical atheist.” We may say that we believe in God, but when we sin, we are acting like we don’t. There is no better anecdote to sin than knowing that God is there, God is watching, and God cares!
“The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil & the good.” (Pr. 15:3)
“His eyes are on the ways of a man. He sees all his steps.” (Job 34:21)
“No creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.” (Heb. 4:13)
When we understand this, it will change what we do in secret because the reality is that we are never truly “in secret.” The ever-living, all-seeing, all-powerful, grace-filled, holy One who created everything is with us. The most glorious, most stunning, most compassionate, most terrifying, all-knowing God is ALWAYS with us! Our God (whether we consciously believe it or not) sees us all the time! He knows the thoughts of our heart before a word is formed on our tongue!
Even as He sees our sinful acts and knows our sinful thoughts, God is an ever-present help in times of trouble. He is a tower to run to and be safe in! He is a rock and a fortress to hide away in when enemies pursue. He is a sun and a shield to guide us and protect us from harm. If we want power to overcome our sins, then we must unleash the power of God’s omniscience!
These 6 strategies will help us in our battle to put our sins to death. We avoid them or forsake them to our peril. We live into them to our increased victory, holiness, and joy—for the glory of The One who set us free by His own blood to wage war and gain victory over all sin.
Listen to the sermon here.