September 1, 2019
Good morning. We are continuing our study on the book of Proverbs, so if you have your Bible, turn to chapter 7. We’ve been trying to cover one theme at a time, so this morning we’re going to consider what this book has to say about self-control. How can we avoid the sin and temptations that seek to destroy our lives?
A few years ago someone gave me a very helpful book called The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook. This book was loaded with practical wisdom to survive any type of scenario that you might encounter. Like how to survive a poisonous snakebite. Or how to maneuver the top of a moving train and jump inside. This book can teach you how to deliver a baby in a taxicab, or let you know what to do if your parachute fails to open. Because you never know. Life is filled with danger and you want to be ready.
In many ways, the book of Proverbs feels like a survival guide to life. Disaster lurks around every corner. And I’m not talking about high-speed chases and snakebites. I’m talking about the temptation to sin & be led astray by the passions of our flesh. We have an enemy that prowls around like a lion, seeking someone to devour. If we are not intimately aware of the power of sin & the weakness of our flesh, we can dismantle our lives before they even begin. You can destroy your future & sacrifice everything God has given you in about 5 minutes of self-indulgence. Esau gave up his inheritance for a bowl of soup. Solomon had seen so many godly and talented young men give up their potential for a cheap thrill, so he loaded the book of Proverbs with wisdom on self-control. You are growing in wisdom when you can anticipate& avoidtemptation. This is a message that is extremely relevant for our own pleasure-seeking society. When the Spirit of God fills us, he produces the fruit of self-control.
This morning we are going to take a close look at a painful story of the successful temptation in Proverbs 7. We will watch a smooth seductress dismantle a naïve young man in about 5 minutes. It feels like a National Geographic video of a lion taking down a gazelle. It’s not pretty, and it’s not a fair fight. But Solomon included this story for our benefit. We get to watch it in slow motion and learn some of our enemy’s techniques. (Now, before we jump in let me remind you that the book of Proverbs was written specifically to young men. That is why th
The wise narrator sets the scene. He looked out of his window one evening just as the sun was going down and the city lights were beginning to light up the city skyline. This is a small but important detail. We are way more susceptible to temptation when the lights are out. We feel like nobody can see us, so we let down our guard. The narrator noticed a group of friends walking around town. These guys weren’t out to cause trouble; they were just looking for some fun. They were young and free. Or, as the text says, they were simple.The word literally means open-minded. They’re old enough to walk the streets at night, but not experienced enough to navigate them well.
As the father observed this pack of young men, he noticed one of the men break off and sneak down a side street by himself. He had a curious look on his face. He had probably heard the rumors about a beautiful woman that lived somewhere on that street, so he wanted to check it out. There’s no way that he’ll actually find her, but he’s bored, so he decided to give it a shot. Look at verse 10.
Proverbs 7:10–12 – And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart. She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait.
Well, the rumors were true. Can you believe his luck? He found the beautiful woman that his friends were talking about. (Though, the narrator wants us to know that the woman actually found him. This wasn’t a chance meeting. She had been roaming the town looking for her next victim. This young, pleasure-seeking simpleton was the perfect candidate. But he didn’t know that. He just felt lucky). His heart rate immediately spiked. The woman was dressed to kill and she was stunningly beautiful. He wasn’t expecting to actuallymeet her, so he had to stumble around to find the right words. How do you start a conversation like that? Would he stick out his hand and introduce himself? Look at v13.
Proverbs 7:13–15 – She seizes him and kisses him, and with bold face she says to him, “I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows; so now I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you.
Well, hello. Before the young man could even say a word, the woman reached out, grabbed his shirt, & planted a kiss on his lips. How’s that for an introduction? What do you do with that?The guy knows that’s not normal social behavior. You usually exchange names before kisses… But he also really likes it and doesn’t really care. Now, at this point he should have asked a few basic questions about this woman (like why did you just do that?), but before he could even think, she put his doubts to rest. Look at the first words out of her mouth: “I just got back from the temple. I offered sacrifices and paid my vows.I’m clean.” She wants him to know that she is perfectly normal. She goes to church just like everyone else. She’s an active member of society. He should relax a bit. She’s not a prostitute. She’s a religious woman. You can trust her. This is one of the defining marks of a sinful sabotage. You will constantly be reassured that everything is just fine. Carry on.
Now that he’s settled in, the woman uses one of her best strategies. In v15 she said, “I’m so glad I found you. I’m so glad you broke off from your friends. I was hoping just you would come.” This woman isn’t messing around. She went right to the heart. She knew he was feeling lonely. Men don’t aimlessly walk the streets at dusk unless they’re lonely. She spoke right into the longings of his heart “I’ve been waiting for you!” I wonder if anyone had ever spoken to him like that. It must have felt good. She’s just getting started. Look at the plan she suggests in v16.
Proverbs 7:16–18 – I have spread my couch with coverings, colored linens from Egyptian linen; I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love.
She promises this bored young man a sensual overload. How can he deny her? The couch is soft. The linens are colorful. And by the way, they’re from Egypt – he’s never felt anything like it, and he never will if he doesn’t go. And her room smells wonderful. She is speaking to the longings of his heart & the pleasures of his body. He is completely hooked. There is no way he will back off now. But she does need to give him one final detail. Look at v19. Proverbs 7:19–20 – For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home.
Wait…you’re married? Isn’t it funny how this little detail comes in so late in the story? This is a critical piece of information. If he goes with this woman, he will be committing adultery. He will be sinning against God, against this woman, & against her husband (not to mention that he will infuriate her powerful husband). If he had known this information earlier, he just might have stood up for himself & walked away. Maybe. But it’s way too late for that. She has him hooked. Besides… the husband is on a very long journey. He’ll be out for weeks. In other words: nobody will ever know. Again – he’s being reassured. Let’s finish this sad story.
Proverbs 7:21–23 – With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.
This young man’s naïve heart was fatally wounded before he knew what was happening. As he walked into the dimly lit, aromatic room, the narrator of the story noticed a strange look on hic face. A look of longing and desire, but also one of regret and defeat. Where else had he seen that face? That’s right – it’s the same helpless face the cow makes on the way to the slaughter. Or it’s like a mouse grabbing a piece of cheese on a mousetrap. In the same moment he is satisfied and trapped. That’s how this young man feels. He’s going to have a wonderful night. But not really. His life is over and he knows it. He had been played.
And so this is our sobering story. Thank you, Solomon. What are we supposed to do with this information? We learn from it! Look at verses 24-27. And now, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth. Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.
Solomon included this story so that we can develop wisdom & avoid walking to our own death. He has given us a brilliant case study of a classic temptation. What a gift. We can break it down and learn from it. I want to highlight 5 quick lessons to help us from plunging into the same house of destruction.
First, if we want to avoid sin, we need to live with conviction. When you read a story like this, it’s important to determine the turning point. Where did the man make his biggest mistake? Wasit when he walked into the house of the adulteress? Or whenshe kissed him? Wasit when he turned down her street? I think it was much earlier. I think the turning point happened when he laced up his shoes and decided to navigate a broken world without convictions. Solomon tells us that he was simpleminded. He was gullible.Open to attack. He was not held by a set of core doctrines & beliefs. So, when the woman showed up & kissed him, it was too late to think or resist. He was enslaved by his passions.
Proverbs 17:24 says, The discerning sets his facetoward wisdom, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth. Fools love to keep their options open. They don’t tie themselves to a single set of beliefs. That is too restrictive. I wonder how many students showed up to Boone last week with a wide-open mind. Let’s just see what I run into. That is a great way to destroy your life before it even starts. Discerning people know better. They set their face toward wisdom and they live with conviction. (A kindhearted and humble conviction, but a conviction nonetheless). And so, let me ask you: is your life locked in on a set of coordinates or are you just drifting with the wind and the waves? Let me ask more specifically. Do you believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God? Have you submitted to the authority of God’s word? Do you believe that Jesus is the king of the universe and that he demands your allegiance? If you have not settled on some of these basic doctrines, you are a prime candidate to fall into a needless snare. The best way to avoid destructive temptation is to set your face on Jesus.
Third, if we want to avoid destructive sins, we need to watch our steps. Even wise people can plunge into the snares of a provocative temptation if they get close enough. And so, we need to set boundaries for ourselves. This seems so elementary. Little kids need boundaries. Full grown men don’t. I can walk down her street and be just fine. She won’t bother me. Paul says, Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. Solomon advises us to set up boundaries. 5:8– Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house. Or look at chapter 6:27–28Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?
Even full-grown men put boundaries around things they love. Do you lock your house? Do you keep your money safe? If you protect your money and your stuff, why wouldn’t you protect your soul? It’s just not wise for some of you to step inside the bar. Some of you need to get rid of your computer at your home. Some of you need to end a relationship. Some of you should just go to bed early next Friday night. It’s worth taking a radical step if it will keep you from a destructive sin.
Fourth, we can avoid destructive sin if we fill our hearts. Look at Pr. 24:13–14My son, eat honey, for it is good, & the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, & your hope will not be cut off. Some people think that saying no to sin means saying no to pleasure. But that is not the case. God has created a good world. If we stuff our hearts with good things, temptation will lose its power. One of the reasons the seductress was so successful is because she was tempting an empty young man. He was lonely. He was walking the streets at night, desperate for affection. If you go through life hungry, you will make bad decisions. This is why you never go to a grocery store on an empty stomach. You will come home with a car full of weird food. If you try to make it through life without the satisfaction of Jesus, you will fill it with destructive sin.
I know so many Christians that just go through the motions. The Bible is flat. Church is boring. They just show up because they’re Christians. This is such a dangerous place to live because if Jesus is not filling your soul, something else will. But I know a lot of Christians that aresatisfied with Christ. They eagerly seek God’s word. The 2ndmost important prayer that I ever prayed (behind Jesus, accept me, I am a sinner) was this: Jesus, help me love the Bible. I can read it, but I want to love it. He heard my prayer and changed my life. If you are satisfied with the good things God has given you, you will be able to resist the snare of temptation.
Finally, if we want to avoid sin, we must fear the Lord. We saw throughout the story that the young man was always able to justify his situation. It was dark; nobody could see. She was religious; God wouldn’t care. Her husband was gone; he could get away with it. He clearly thought that God didn’t see or God didn’t care. In short, he did not fear God. This would have been a completely different story if the man had been aware of God’s holy presence. It doesn’t matter how late it is: God doesn’t sleep. It doesn’t matter that she went to church: adultery is wrong! Church, get this into your head: you cannot get away with sin.God is holy. He sees everything you do, and you will have to give an account. The best way to avoid sin is to develop a healthy fear of the Lord. Proverbs 8:13– The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil.Proverbs 16:6–by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil. Proverbs 14:27– The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death. As you grow in your fear of the Lord, you will also grow in your hatred of sin. If you think this is OT legalism, let me give you a text from the NT. Look at Titus 2. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age…
God will empower us to say no to sin! We have an enemy that prowls around like a lion, looking for someone to devour. But friends, he was defeated. (Not will bedefeated; he wasdefeated when Jesus went to the cross).Because of that, we can anticipate and avoid the snares of the devil. Listen to these encouraging words from 1 Cor. 13.No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, & he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.I pray that you would develop wisdom and resist the snares of the devil.
But as we close, let me say this. I realize that this has been a difficult message for some of you. Because for some of you, it’s too late. Maybe you have already given your body to someone & now you’re reaping the consequences. Maybe you’re discouraged because you have fallen off the wagon again. You were doing so good, but you gave it all up. Maybe you’re addicted to pornography and nobody knows it. Maybe you got caught in the snare last nightand you limped into church this morning. Is there any hope for the men and women that have been caught in a snare?Look at Proverbs 28:13 – Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
Some of you have sinned, but you don’t know what to do. And so you hide. You conceal your transgression. If this is how you deal with sin, I have nothing but bad news for you. You will bear the consequences. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There is another option for you. If you confess your sins to Jesus and forsake them, you will obtain mercy. You see – your sinled you astray like an ox to the slaughter. But Jesus, even though he had no sin, willingly went to the slaughter like a lamb. He did it because he loves you. Your sinbrought you into the pit of hell. But you don’t have to stay there because Jesus willingly went walked into the pit of hell to get you back. Don’t hide your sin. Confess them to Jesus and you will receive mercy.
This morning we are going to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. This is a chance for us to gather around the broken body of Jesus and the shed blood. This is a vivid reminder of the great love of Jesus. We were led astray by our sinful passions and caught in the snares of death. But Jesus gave his own life for us. As we eat and drink this morning, may we remember that we are united with Christ. His Spirit lives in us. He has taken us from the snares of death, and he has given us strength to say no to ungodliness.
In just a moment, the elders & deacons will distribute the elements, first the bread, and then the cup. Take a piece, and hold it. We’ll eat together. This is a family meal and so if you belong to Christ, you can eat. If you have an unconfessed sin in your life, I want to invite you to simply cry out to Jesus in your chair. Say, “Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.” He will forgive you and welcome you into the family.
1 Corinthians 11:23–26 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread,  and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Stand and pray.