Tuesday, May 7, 2019 -
Today is May 7. Here part of my Scripture reading is Proverbs 7, as it corresponds to the day of the month. I’ve been doing this every month for more than 25 years, so you’d think there’d be nothing new to garner from this passage, other than the dire warning that it is. Yet here I am writing on it today. For when you combine Proverbs 7 with the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:27-28, it takes on a whole new meaning.
Normally, when one reads Proverbs 7, it is easy to dismiss it as a warning that applies only slightly to us, as harlots aren’t lurking around street corners waiting to seduce us. Perhaps your life was different than mine, but I took this passage in every month as a warning that I need to hide Scripture in my heart in order to withstand such temptation when it does arrive.
However, today one faces sexual temptation more than ever. It is totally ubiquitous, wherever we turn. Pornography, for example, is readily available for our eyes at a few clicks. Jesus said lusting after a woman is no different than the very act of adultery. And so one must guard his eyes and fill his heart with God’s commandments. The Proverb says “treasure up my commandment within you. Keep my teaching as the apple of your eye (Jesus said to pluck out your eye if you have no control over it in Matthew 5:29). Bind them in your fingers, write them on the tablet of your heart” (v. 1-4). It concludes, “Now, therefore, my sons, listen to me, and pay attention to words of my mouth. ‘Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways, do not stray into her paths. For many are victims she has cast down, and numerous are all her slain. Her house is the way to Sheol,’ descending to the chambers of death” (v. 24-27). Jesus actually echoes Proverbs in speaking of lust. A lot depends on your heart, and where your heart is and what you fill it with. But we have yet a sure-fire way to withstand even the temptation of the eyes, and that is Jesus Himself. For in Matthew 5, He was informing the Jews standing before Him that it was helpless for them to try and keep the law. He was pointing out the depravity of every man, and the fact that we all need a savior. This was, in fact, the very purpose of the law. So indeed, Jesus came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17). He was the one the people were awaiting, who would save the people from their sin.
But Jesus, when He ascended to heaven, did not leave us powerless to overcome sin. Some of His final words were, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). Until you recognize that you are powerless without the Holy Spirit, you will never have victory over your sin. This power is not merely the power to overcome the lust of the eyes, but any sin you may be prone to commit, be it anger, profanity, a selfish spirit, bitterness, unforgiveness – no matter what it may be! The apostle Paul may likely have had a similar weakness as yours, and here is what he wrote: “Concerning this, I entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9).
I too can look at my life and the moment when victory over certain sins that had overtaken me was finally achieved. Yet the only thing I did was confess to God I could, in my weakness, do nothing to overcome the snares of the devil. I told God I was helpless and gave it to Him. God would not only provide instantaneous, and sometimes miraculous, victory at that moment, but eventually, He soon changed my heart, desires, and habits. That is the power of the Holy Spirit Jesus spoke about in Acts 1:8 and elsewhere, and that Paul also relied on in II Corinthians 12:9. It is available to you and me, as well. He is merely waiting on us to confess our helplessness when it comes to sin and our complete dependence on Him to overcome the wiles of Satan.