Our world is awash in sexual filth. It covers our land like the oil from the Exxon Valdez covered the Alaskan coastline. It fills homes like sewage fills basements when the city drains back up in a flood.
The world is covered with the muck of sexual sin. And it’s influencing God’s church.
New York state’s governor resigned recently for gross sexual offences. The accompanying stories of prostitution and those who participate are staggering. Detroit’s mayor is being prosecuted for, among other things, lying about a sexual relationship with an aide. And the memory is fresh of the perversions of a former President of the United States. These are no peccadilloes.
Involved is, almost always, pornography.
The secular world notices, but either justifies it or changes the subject, quickly. But the churches are beginning to recognize the problem among Christians. The recent lead article in Christianity Today (March 2008) reveals a dark reality: throngs of men in churches have become ensnared in the ruinous sin of pornography. Specialized ministries are set up to assist those who finally admit their dark secrets and seek to be freed of them. But Christians are falling, and the numbers are staggering. Women as well as men ruin themselves. Young people are falling earlier on account of pornography’s availability on the Internet. Church leaders are among them. Everyone is under attack.
The offensive is an all-out assault on the church.
Balak, King of Moab
That the devil uses this tactic to wreak havoc among God’s people is nothing new.
Balak was the Moabite king whose first attempts to wound and destroy Israel failed. His hiring of the mercenary prophet Balaam to curse Israel backfired. As Israel journeyed to the land of promise, prophet Balaam could only bless—with some of the most beautiful blessings recorded in Scripture. Although King Balak was frustrated with Balaam (“I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times”!) he was not deterred. His alternate plan, though less sophisticated, was very effective. Numbers 25 shows Israel falling headlong into gross and public fornication with the women of Moab. Balak knew what would bring them to ruin. That this was a subtle but calculated scheme to damage God’s Israel is plain from the end of the chapter: “They vex you with their wiles” and “have beguiled you,” God judged. The presence of the Moabite prostitutes was Moab’s deception of Israel to bring her into idolatry and then under the judgment of God.
The spirit of Balak is revived.
Thus: redivivus. The Latin means: “given new life.” The strategy and wiles of Balak.
If the church’s adversary cannot damage her in one way, he will try another. If she is resistant to the curse of false doctrine, a different spell may succeed. If modern false worship does not attract her, formalism may. If the modern ecumenical movement repels her, she may be susceptible to the sin of isolationism. The devil adjusts his offense in response to each church’s and each age’s defense. He uses many lures.
Pornography. The portrayal of sexual sin, fornication. By words. By pictures. Moving or still.
But Balak’s efforts today are intensified, and more crafty, than they ever have been. Balak is rejuvenated with magnified strength. Terrifying strength.
The Church’s Hope
There is hope for the church and the people of God. The wife who, just imagining the possibility of a problem, feels nauseous may take courage. The man, too ashamed ever to think of seeking help, may. The officebearer may. There is power against the sin. There is deliverance for men (and women). There is safety for our sons (and daughters).
The safety and deliverance is the gospel of Jesus Christ—preached and applied and embraced by faith. The gospel given in the good graces of God.
But the goodness of God includes descriptions of and warnings about sin—particularly this sin. And no believer may be unaware of the nature and power of this sin against the seventh commandment.
Scripture warns repeatedly against the attraction of sexual wickedness.
The book of Proverbs majors on this folly. Too practical and probably not theological enough for some, Proverbs nevertheless addresses us all, and expounds God’s wisdom in Jesus Christ regarding sexual ethics.
Proverbs is blunt. Chapter 3 gives a “heads-up” as it were: “Adult content ahead.” Chapter 5 dives right in, and goes on all the way through chapter 7: The whore’s lips are like honey. Her mouth is smooth. Her words flatter. Her beauty is captivating. Her perfumes are intoxicating. Her eyes are alluring. The man is tempted to embrace her bosom and be ravished with her love. As a wise father, Solomon gives good doctrine (Prov. 4:2) to his sons.
Young Samson did not listen to the exhortations and warnings of his father taken from the book of Proverbs: “My son, attend unto my wisdom…. Hear me now…depart not from the words of my mouth. Remove thy way far from her….” Or else, Samson’s father failed to impress upon the young man from early years the massive evil and devastating consequences of this sin. Are we fathers listening? Young fathers. Older fathers. Grandfathers at family dinners. Read the book of Proverbs with your children with some urgency. When they become teens, don’t stop, but become more passionate in your love for them and fear for their safety.
And talk consequences.
Proverbs emphasizes consequences. Preachers and parents must not underestimate the importance of consequences in warning her members away from certain sins. They must not appeal only to the commandments of God and the calling to live antithetically. These are indeed essential. But also important are consequences of sin. And Proverbs speaks of the consequences of sexual sin more than of the sin itself, and uses consequences as powerful incentives not to come near the strange woman or be tempted by her invitations.
Her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. “Can a man take fire into his bosom, and not be burned?” Scripture’s wisdom asks. Toward the end, the foolish (now older) young man mourns with the pathetic lament: “How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; and have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me…” (Prov. 5:12, 13). “Had I only listened to my parents!”
In the very end, if impenitent, he goes to hell.
Before that, it’s a hellish life. A believer is hesitant to read the descriptions of the downward spiral and the hellish misery of the man (or woman) who does not repent early of his (or her) sexual sins. But he must. It is sad. It is sickening. But it’s necessary to see.
His personal life falls apart. Those who commit this sin are stripped of all their honor (Prov. 5:9, 6:33). One does not need to be a public servant to know this. Soon, their wealth is gone, too (Prov. 5:10, 6:26). More money is spent on the Internet for pornography, we are told, than for everything else put together.
Sooner rather than later marriages suffer incalculable and, at times, irreparable damage. Pastors and elders have seen enough marriage problems these days not to be naÃ¯ve about the part pornography plays.
Because a Christian’s personal life is so closely related to the church, his ability to serve the church—whether in special office or not—is rendered useless. This is a grave concern. Who can say enough about this?
The warning of this ancient book even includes that the person who falls into this sin eventually loses his health. His flesh and his body are consumed (Prov. 5:11).
But the consequence that has sometimes been overlooked is addiction. The article inChristianity Today highlights this. It does not quote Proverbs. It should. The man (or woman) who commits this sin eventually “is holden with the cords of his sins.” The world calls that “addiction.” Sometimes “mental illness.” Or “disorder.” Scripture calls it slavery to sin.
If the church has known this, she has not talked about it very much. Sin ensnares. Every sin can entrap a person. This is why the public health professionals’ list of “Mental Disorders” grows in our generation. The believer recognizes the “disorders” as the enslaving power of sin. From Scripture’s unique treatment ofsexual sin, it appears that sexual sin has a power to enslave greater than most sins.
The mental image is pathetic: the man (or woman) who so hates the sin, but has no power to overcome it. So powerful is the addiction, men risk losing everything for the sake of the sin. So strongly does it hold them, that the thought of losing their marriage, their occupation, their children and grandchildren, cannot make them resist. So Proverbs warned when it said: “Many strong men have been slain by her.” Strong men have no ability to resist. Having given themselves to the sin, it “has dominion” over them (Rom. 6:12).
In the end, if he is impenitent, the enslaved sinner goes to hell. “…as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks; Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life.”
That’s why it’s so important to see the evil of this sin. And, that’s why it is so important to show the ensnared believer that there is hope. And what that hope is. But that waits for next issue, God willing.
This is an editorial.
The editorial calls elders to take up these matters, if they have not already, and educate themselves for this battle their flock wages. It would not be inappropriate to put this on the consistory agenda, to ask the minister to preach the sharp warnings, to raise it as a subject at family visitation. The elders must be frank. The minister must be open: how many marriage problems is he dealing with that involve pornography?
It will not do for anyone—especially the officebearers, but also wives and parents—to be naÃ¯ve. I’ll have some counsel for wives in an upcoming editorial. God deliver us from the “strange woman,” that we may devote ourselves to Him.