The subject of sexual purity has been one that seems to be a particularly prevalent subject in our culture. I have read multiple books on the subject, yet I always felt that a few of them were missing something. At first I didn’t know how to express it. Others, older and much wiser, have articulated it much better. While studying Ecclesiastes, I came across an interesting passage that articulates my thoughts on the subject.
“And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her. Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account: which yet my soul seeketh, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found.” – Ecclesiastes 7:26 – 28
First of all, this passage isn’t a treatise on how terrible women in general are. Solomon has much to say in praise of worthy women (more on that later). Rather, this is the heart cry of a man who had been taken captive by the lust of the eyes and the flesh, who had been taken captive by seducing women. 1 Kings 11:3 tells us that Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, and that, because of these women, his heart was led astray to idolatry. If Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon as an account of his repentance, we can be certain that few have known more the dangers of sexual sin than this man.
Elsewhere in the book of Proverbs, Solomon elaborates upon the effects of the adulterous woman: “For the lips of a strange woman drop as a honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: but her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell… [the fool] goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter… till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is his life.” (From Proverbs 5 and 7)
Solomon tells us – and his wisdom is backed by our generation’s experience – that sexual sin is dangerous and works like a trap. I think the reason it is so hard to escape is because of the reality of pleasure. If sexual acts were painful, then the whole problem would be solved. Because this pleasure has been perverted by the fall, however, it is used as bait for temptation. But too often we take the bait and realize too late there’s a hook in our cheek.
Because it has become a problem within the church, there have been many books written on the issue. I have read some of the more famous ones. The advice they give is good, to an extent; however, it’s missing something that is captured in this phrase from Ecclesiastes: “whoso pleases God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her.”
In reading these books, I was told that I should be pure, which is true. I was told that I should train my eyes to not look at women lustfully, which is good. Perhaps I overlooked it, but I remember thinking to myself, “Is that it?” I am not against young men and women fighting for their purity for reasons such as their spouses or relationships or because it causes problems in their ministry. Beyond that, however, there should be one, overarching reason, and it is this reason that was overlooked in those books. We should want to be pure out of a sincere and passionate desire to please God and God alone.
It’s a process of replacing one passion for another. You have been passionate about lusting, about fixing your mind and eyes on perverted things; now fight that passion with a new one: the passion to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. I think of the parable Jesus told of a man who had a demon in him (I do paraphrase this here). The demon left, and the man swept out his inner life. The demon, in the meantime, found nowhere to dwell, so he thought he would check out his old abode. He found it nice and clean, but empty. So he brought six friends along, and the end for that man was much worse than before.
It was the same with me at one point. I swept out my inner life, pushing lust out. But I didn’t replace it with a passion for Christ, and before I knew it, lust began to creep back in. We cannot just douse one fire without lighting another, brighter and more glorious flame.
Our purpose is to please and glorify God anyway, and find our greatest satisfaction in Him. John Piper, in rephrasing the Shorter Catechism, said, “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.” Psalm 16:11 says, “… In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand are pleasures forevermore.” It is when we believe this and chase it with reckless abandon that we may find it. Trade the fleeting pleasures of sexual sin for the eternal pleasures of God and Christ.
Fight fire with fire, brothers. It has been said that the best defense is a good offense; prove that, by combating lust by flooding your mind with thoughts of Christ. By the grace of God we have been saved; so let us pursue Him by that grace.
I find too that this applies not only to sexual lusts, but to any sort of sinful desires. We must fight them, by the grace of God, by seeking only to please Him. There will always be within us the desire to do wrong and please ourselves; but if we are in Him, we must choose to do what is right and pleases Him. What He asks, He gives the grace to do, and in the end, even if it causes pain today, we shall see that it was all worth it.
As I said, older and much wiser men have addressed this much better than I just did. I would encourage you to check out this article by John Piper – “ANTHEM: Strategies for Fighting Lust”:http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/taste-see-articles/anthem-strategies-for-fighting-lust
Also, Pastor Ryan Fullerton had an excellent sermon on the dangers of lust and how to fight it called “Men, Pursue Purity”. You can find the audio here, and there should be a video on it soon, which I will link when it arrives. http://sermon.net/lakeroad/sermonid/119845029
Blessings in Christ!