Jeff Mangum teaches on wisdom in sexuality using Proverbs 7:1-27
Series: The Pursuit of Wisdom
I can remember one day as a child when my mom picked me up from school ad took me home. My dad’s car was in the driveway, which was suspicious, because usually he didn’t get home until 5:30. I walked in and my dad was smiling and motioning for me to sit next to him. My mom quietly exited the room. As I walked toward him I knew this was going to be the Father-Son Sex Chat. It was like walking to my death.
My dad went right into it. No prep work. He just started talking. He is very descriptive as he tells stories, leaving nothing left for the imagination. He wants to make sure you understand every detail. As he described things with unreal detail I tried to block him out. But he had a piece of paper and was drawing while talking!
After the conversation, he looked at me, still smiling, and asked if I had any questions. I said, “Never.” I wanted to go to my room and cry. I remember two things from that conversation. First, it was a painfully awkward conversation. But it was necessary. It’s necessary for a father to have that talk with his son.
I’m not sure why, but Christians have ceased to talk about sexuality in the context of Christian community, especially from the pulpit. Yet God is the creator of our sexuality. He loves sex. He created it for us to enjoy. It’s a gift. So today we’re going to do what we often avoid and talk about what the Bible says about our sexuality and how to protect and guard it.
Proverbs prepares us to understand how to guard what we value the most. It teaches us our sexuality is something we must value significantly more than we actually do. We must be diligent and vigilant to guard and protect it. The only reason you guard or protect anything is because you value it. Why else would you guard it?
We’re going to study the story of a young man who gives in to sexual temptation. Let’s learn from him, from the things he did and didn’t do. As you read Proverbs 7, you need to understand it’s the words of a father speaking to his children. This is the heart of Father God speaking to us, as His sons and daughters, warning, protecting, and declaring to us how significant our sexuality is and how we should guard it. In the same manner as my son and daughters are growing up and temptations arise, you better believe I’m going to fight for them, to intrude, question them repeatedly, and warn them not to forget how valuable it is. So listen to Proverbs 7 with ears of a son or daughter.
Proverbs was also written as a training manual for young boys to learn how to grow up and become wise, godly men. God’s wisdom is not sexist. Temptation comes at you with everything it has for both men and women. All the more, God’s wisdom is not simply for just young boys learning how to become wise and godly men. It’s for everyone, men and women of all ages.
Lastly, we’re going to read the story of a young man and a prostitute. This is not simply a sermon about young men and prostitutes; it’s a sermon about humanity and temptation. It has everything to do with you.
There are three things I want you to take away from today. I want you to…
My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; 2 keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; 3 bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Proverbs 7:1-3 (ESV)
Before he even talks about sexuality, he wants us to know that whatever is communicated, the wisdom, is not to be received flippantly. Hold onto it. Let it be tattooed on the soul, memorized and written on your heart. He then goes on to describe the manner in which seduction and temptation prey on us.
Say to wisdom, “You are my sister, and call insight your intimate friend, 5 to keep you from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words. 6 For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, 7 and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, 8 passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house 9 in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness. 10 And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart. 11 She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home; 12 now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait. 13 She seizes him and kisses him, and with bold face she says to him, 14 “I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows; 15 so now I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you. 16 I have spread my couch with coverings, colored linens from Egyptian linen; 17 I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. 18 Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love. 19 For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; 20 he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home.” 21 With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. Proverbs 7:4-21 (ESV)
There are a lot of ways we can see temptation in our lives. Here, God chooses to personify temptation as a prostitute. Even more importantly, He describes temptation as a predator and the unguarded men or woman as its prey.
A lot of us have this idea of temptation as something that’s sedentary. It’s an entity that sits back and waits for us to show up and then it might wake up and attack us. The Bible describes it in the exact opposite way. Temptation is on the move, it’s active. It’s doing anything it can to take you down. Let’s look at how Proverbs describes it.
What we’re reading is about the small, seemingly insignificant moments in your life. That is where temptation hooks and convinces you that it’s too insignificant of a moment to matter so just give way to it.
Men, we know what he’s talking about. You’re walking down the magazine aisle and you give that oh so brief glance and can’t look away. Or how about at work, that young lady who dresses to impress and you give one, two, or nineteen glances her way. It’s those small, unguarded, insignificant moments where temptation hooks you.
Women, this is for you as well. It’s easier to point it out in men, but it’s as seductive for women. For married women, it’s when you’re working a job and your boss compliments you and it makes you feel really good, because you can’t remember the last time you husband did something like that. Or how about those innocent conversations with that male coworker or neighbor? It’s the little things, they’re harmless, right? That’s what temptation is so good at seducing us with.
Notice Solomon describes temptation with verbs. Sin and temptation are active. It wants to destroy you, to gut your reputation, to bring pain to you and everyone connected to you. It is not sedentary. It is on the move.
Now we understand why God is so adamant in saying to treat your sexuality well, steward it rightly, guard it at all costs, and protect it with all measures. It is a great value that temptation wants to destroy.
The young man doesn’t realize how unguarded he is. The unguarded man is a man who is walking to a slow slaughter. The unguarded woman is a woman giving in to a slow destruction.
All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast 23 till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life. 24 And now, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth. 25 Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, 26 for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. 27 Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death. Proverbs 7:22-27 (ESV)
When we read this story, all of us can identify with the man. Our scenarios might look different, but we can all identify with those moments where temptation just seems like such a predator that you can’t get away from it, those moments of failure where you feel so overwhelmed.
There are two different groups of people listening right now. Half way through this passage one group was thinking, “Amen! This guy, I get it, that’s me. I can identify with this scenario and the struggles of the predator coming to the prey.” Others of us read this and think, “Man, I’m really sad for this young man, but I would never be that foolish. History shows I’m not that dumb. I don’t make choices like that. He got what was coming to him.”
Every person listening to this message, regardless of demographic, age, family history, track record of holiness or lack thereof, or gender is as susceptible to giving in to sexual temptation as this man.
What do we do with this? We have a predator coming at us. How do we fight?
First of all, in order to fight, you have to see it as a fight. It’s a fight for your life. It’s not a little dance with temptation. Look at why this young man fell. Solomon described him very specifically, “He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray (Proverbs 5:23 ESV).”
This young man does some crazy stuff, but it’s stuff we do all the time. The Bible doesn’t say he walked to the prostitute. Nowhere does it say his ambition was to give into temptation. It says he was towing the line of the tempter. He was tempting the tempter at dark with no one around him. He walked down the street where she lives. He probably figured he was strong enough not to give in. Yet she seduced him in a way he was not prepared for.
We understand what it looks like to walk down those paths. So I want us to look at two specific areas of life where we can get some practical wisdom toward how to fight temptation.
Entertainment has a way of lying to us. I’m not going to say what you can and cannot watch. Rather, I want to spend our time on the gray area of life, where the majority of our temptations seem to come alive. The things where there’s not someone saying do or don’t do, but it’s up to you to make a decision. Entertainment is a prominent area for us.
Men, it means you need to be wise and considerate about how you see things and where you fall easily. You’ve got to actually pursue wisdom with others around you wondering if you can watch something and keep your soul in tact. Asking questions like, does this song stir up something from an old memory? Is this show not only acceptable, but also beneficial for me today? That answer is going to differ from most of your friends’ answers. We have grown so comfortable with letting the social norm or those around us dictate the spiritual norm. It’s why we fall so quickly. But Scripture says if you want to lead then you need to examine your heart and be honest about where you fall, and what you can and cannot handle.
Women, this isn’t just about men making sure they don’t see too much flesh on a TV show. One of the most consistent ways women gather is through entertainment. You get together and watch shows or read books. Some of you may watch a particular show or movie that glamorizes a particular husband, or father, or family, or physique of a woman. The more you watch, the more you can feel in your heart a longing for that to be you. You want your husband to like that. You want your kids to respond like that. What it starts to do is paint the picture of your current husband, kids, your own physique, and your own reality as something you don’t like and then you want to abandon it for that. Every great moral destruction starts small. There are some books your neighborhood book club is going to read that you need to bow out of. You need to guard your sexuality. Guard your heart.
How about the Internet? At the very minimum, if you struggle with pornography, which may not always look the way you think it looks, then there are protective measures you can have. One of the things we use as men on the staff is a software that keeps us accountable every time we visit a website. It records what we’ve seen and sends it to whoever is our accountability, whether our spouse and/or fellow pastors. They see everything we’ve seen.
Fleeing temptation is sometimes reactive. As Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:22, “Flee the youthful desires of your flesh.” Run, sprint, and go! But there are a lot of things that are proactive as well. You need to put measures like this in place.
I’m an extreme introvert. I really like being alone. I have to be mindful of the moments when I’m alone. Where I’m alone. With whom I’m alone. Dietrich Bonheoffer says, “Sin demands to have a man by himself.”
For some of the men on staff, including myself, we never travel alone when ministering in other places. On one end, it keeps us above reproach, but it also guards our sexuality and souls. Does it impinge on our comfort sometimes? Yes. Does it mean some of the relaxation of being alone and getting away is bothered? Absolutely. But my soul matters way more.
You also need to consider a few other things when you’re alone.
When I go to the gym and run on the treadmill, I never go to the back row. That’s temptation row! There are three rows of work out machines in front of you with people, some of which are not dressed appropriately. It’s easy for my eyes to turn. So I go to the front row to the very right in front of a TV, because Sportscenter doesn’t cause me to lust. I guard myself proactively. I don’t trust myself.
At restaurants, about a month ago a couple of buddies and I went to lunch. About five minutes in, the man sitting across from me asked if we could change tables. Afterwards, he explained there were two young girls wearing very high mini skirts behind me and there was no way he could sit there and be godly for the next hour.
Last week my family went on vacation. There was a huge pool with slides. The other husband and I went to find a place for us to put our towels and stuff in the shade. We found a perfect place right by the slide. We went down the slide and I noticed a few women who weren’t dressed appropriately at all sitting right there also. All I could think about was how we couldn’t stay there. Our wives weren’t there yet and I remember looking at my friend and we both knew it. So we got up and moved our stuff and found a different place. It wasn’t because we’re pretentious and think better of ourselves. It’s because we now we’re not.
We have to guard our sexuality.
You also need to consider whom you’re spending alone time with. If you’re married, no one-on-one time with someone of the opposite sex, unless it’s your spouse. If you’re doing it, then stop. If you’re considering it, don’t. I’ve heard all the excuses in the book. “She’s like a sister to me. It’s not like that. We’re like family.” You will gain all the more respect from your spouse by taking a stance on that. You’re not losing anything. You’re gaining more joy. Trust me.
If you’re single, you need to be mindful who you’re alone with and when. I cannot tell you how many men I’ve counseled that don’t understand why they keep fooling around with their girlfriend even though they both love Jesus. Usually the scenarios include it being just the two of them, watching a movie, at night, with the lights off. Young men take the lead on this. Protect and guard your sexuality and guard hers too. A lot of the reasons why men don’t do that is because they actually want it to happen. So you’re actually becoming the tempter. Ladies, if your boyfriend won’t step up and lead you in that, then find a new one. It is that vital.
A lot of you are hearing this and thinking it’s overkill and legalistic. If you view your sexuality the way God views it, it’s not at all legalistic. It’s just baby steps to guarding what is of the upmost value. If you don’t trust what God says about your sexuality, then you’re right, it is overkill.
To walk this path means you’re going to be uncomfortable. It’s a more difficult path without a doubt, but well worth it. God has not put these things in place to rob you of joy. He’s guarding you from robbing your own joy. He’s trying to give you more joy.
We need to consider what we’ve learned and who has taught it. This is Solomon. He is the one saying whatever you do, don’t give into temptation, but fight wisely. Yet the demise of Solomon’s life was the exact wisdom he is giving us.
He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. 4 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)
The insight and wisdom you’ve gained today doesn’t equate obedience. Aside from Jesus, Solomon had more wisdom than anyone, much more than you and I. Yet, he fell radically.
Wisdom alone is not what keeps us pure at heart.
We need insight and wisdom. But we cannot fight temptation well without receiving the immeasurable grace of Christ on the cross. You’re going to fail sometimes. The only way you’re going to be able to continue to get up every morning and fight with hope is to trust in the hope, mercy, love, kindness, power, and forgiveness of Jesus, who purchased it all for you on the cross.
I don’t know what your story is, but there’s grace for you. No matter who you are, what you’ve done, no matter how much shame you’re feeling right now, God’s grace is available to you.
We as a family must come to the river of grace, drink and be washed. Let us come to the Jesus who made it the norm to give grace and forgiveness to prostitutes when everyone else wanted to stone them.