Purity: Staying Clean In A Dirty World
October 30, 1994
This sermon is different, unusual, in that it is directed only to men. In 16 years as a pastor I have never directed a sermon only to to men, but I am this time. My heart has been heavily burdened on this subject. As I thought and prayed about this sermon Tuesday afternoon as I was driving back from the Billy Graham Center, I felt an overwhelming sense from the Lord that I should address my remarks to men. I hope women gather something of usefulness and I ask you to pray for the men.
Men, I am going to ask you to do two things.
1. Listen with all your heart.
My focus this morning is on sexual purity. The Bible has a great deal to say about the subject of purity, but the greater part of what it has to say has to do with the whole area of sexual purity, morality vs. immorality. So this sermon speaks as a brother to my brothers on the subject that every man here has thought greatly about—the subject of sexual purity.
My son, pay attention to my wisdom,
turn your ear to my words of insight,
2 that you may maintain discretion
and your lips may preserve knowledge.
3 For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil;
4 but in the end she is bitter as gall,
sharp as a double-edged sword.
5 Her feet go down to death;
her steps lead straight to the grave.
6 She gives no thought to the way of life;
her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it.
7 Now then, my sons, listen to me;
do not turn aside from what I say.
8 Keep to a path far from her,
do not go near the door of her house,
9 lest you lose your honor to others
and your dignity[a] to one who is cruel,
10 lest strangers feast on your wealth
and your toil enrich the house of another.
11 At the end of your life you will groan,
when your flesh and body are spent.
12 You will say, “How I hated discipline!
How my heart spurned correction!
13 I would not obey my teachers
or turn my ear to my instructors.
14 And I was soon in serious trouble
in the assembly of God’s people.”
15 Drink water from your own cistern,
running water from your own well.
16 Should your springs overflow in the streets,
your streams of water in the public squares?
17 Let them be yours alone,
never to be shared with strangers.
18 May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
19 A loving doe, a graceful deer—
may her breasts satisfy you always,
may you ever be intoxicated with her love.
20 Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man’s wife?
Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman?
21 For your ways are in full view of the Lord,
and he examines all your paths.
22 The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them;
the cords of their sins hold them fast.
23 For lack of discipline they will die,
led astray by their own great folly.
1. The Trap (v. 1-5)
It is not easy these days. There is a lot that militates against sexual purity. For one thing, the media is all against us. Every year, every week, every month, every day you turn on the TV, listen to the radio, buy a magazine, read a book, put a video into the VCR, and out comes a veritable tidal wave of sexual innuendo. Did you know that in America on the major TV network screens this year there will be over 20,000 acts of simulated or suggested physical intercourse? It will be there for everybody to see. And Ted Turner was absolutely right a few years ago when he said that the media is the most powerful force in America today. The media taken together is a vast conglomerate that is pushing our society in a particular direction—far more powerful than education, far more powerful than the churches of America, far more powerful than the government in Washington. Take the media moguls of today and the leading media companies of today, and those are the people who are setting the agenda for the American culture. They are not setting it toward biblical morality. They are certainly not setting it toward purity.
There is a second reason it is difficult, and that is the scourge of pornography. Pornography in America today has become a multi-billion dollar business. I speak not just of adult pornography, but also of child pornography. It is as if somebody has turned a valve and a giant sewer has been let loose, pouring raw sewage of pornography across our society. We’re all slimed with it today. I think the main change today is that if 40 years ago you wanted to buy a dirty magazine, you would go down to some disreputable portion of town with $5.00 in your pocket, and would find some disreputable type person and slip them the $5.00. They would reach down under the counter and out of that brown wrapping paper they would pull a magazine and off you’d slink back to the darkness to look at it.
A giant sewer has been let loose, pouring the raw sewage of pornography across our society.
But today all kinds of pornography are easily available, not just to adults but to teenagers and children. I read an article the other day by somebody who said that the main problem facing our children today is boredom because by the age of 10 the average child in America will have seen, read or heard implied every kind of sexual activity there is. Between man and woman, man and man, woman and woman, man and beast, every possible grouping of degenerate and perverted sex that could be. The problem is that in the old days sex was something mysterious. There is no mystery anymore. Now kids are simply bored with it. We as men understand that.
Then there is the problem of divorce and remarriage. There was a time when the church of Jesus Christ was hardly affected by divorce. Thirty or forty years ago divorce was like the scarlet sin. People who had been divorced had a hard time coming to church on Sunday morning. I am glad things have changed in one sense, because now we tell people that it doesn’t matter what their past is, we’re glad to have them here. But I think it has been a mixed blessing, because as our society has begun to change and disintegrate and as the traditional family has begun to disintegrate and as the nuclear family has blown up and exploded into smithereens, we see now there is divorce and remarriage and sexual innuendo. We are now in a society where marriages aren’t expected to last very long and where the traditional family isn’t much in evidence anymore. Now it seems as if the moral standard of our society has gone downhill and now we’re heading on down to the bottom.
The moral standard of our society has gone downhill and now we’re heading on down to the bottom.
And so, men, I want to ask the question this morning: where are the men who will stand against the tide? Where are the men who will dare to be different? Where are the men who cannot be bought and sold on the altar of sexual expediency? Where are the men who make a promise and keep it? Where are the men who say, “I will wait,” and wait. Where are the men who say, “I won’t,” and don’t. Where are the men who will say, “I am faithful,” and are faithful? Where are those men?
I want to tell you something right up front. I think women have a right to know. I think our wives and daughters have a right to know. I think our parents, our grandchildren, the girls in the youth group have a right to know whether the guys they date are committed to moral purity.
It is hard to stay clean in a dirty world.
I have been preaching from the book of Proverbs, taking a different subject each week. We come this time to the subject of purity. There are two whole chapters in the book of Proverbs that are devoted to the question of sexual purity. One is Proverbs Chapter 5 and the other is Chapter 7. Taken together, those two chapters form the longest, most extensive teaching on sexual morality that is found in all the pages of God’s Word, in the Old Testament or the New Testament. I find it very interesting that the writer of Proverbs, King Solomon, decided to put down his words of wisdom. He felt it important to spend so much time and so much space on the subject of sexual purity. He knew, even back 3000 years ago, that it is hard to stay clean in a dirty world. It is hard to stay pure in a world that has decided to live in the sewer.
This sermon is about what Solomon had to say about the young people of his generation. In so doing, we are moving toward the answer to the question: where are the men who will stand against the tide?
Yesterday somebody came into my office and said to me, “Pastor Ray, what does that passage mean that talks about the qualifications for elders and says ‘he must be the husband of one wife’?” There has been a lot of controversy about that. I will tell you what I think it means. At Calvary we understand it to mean that the elder, the spiritual leader, must be a one-woman man. That is not just a statement about whether you have ever been divorced or not. It is a statement about fidelity. It is a statement about honor, about integrity, about the focus of your life. That is to say, those who are spiritual leaders are expected to be men who are focused on just one woman. A husband, focused on just one wife. Not just that he has been married to her, but that his heart is toward her. Not just that he has never been divorced, but that he is focused on her and her alone, that she is the object of his affection, that he is not flirtatious, that he is not known as a ladies’ man.
This week I made a list of the Christian men I have known who have fallen into immorality. There was a doctor, a principal, a businessman, an accountant, a pastor, another pastor, a union man, a small business owner, a pastor, most recently another pastor, an investor and another doctor. It took me only five minutes to come up with this list.
Where are the men who will stand against the tide? Where are the men whose word is their bond? Where are the men that the women of this church can trust? Where are the men who will say, “We will be different?”
2. The Warning (v. 7-14)
Proverbs 5:1 says, “My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge.” Then he explains to the young men of his day how women with bad motives will come and lead a man away. He says, “For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil.” It is true that most of us men struggle with the question of ego. Most of us for all our bravado on the outside basically are weak on the inside and need somebody to come alongside and scratch us on the head and pat us on the back and kiss us on the cheek and tell us how good we are and how good-looking we are and how wonderful, great, strong and powerful we are. That’s what this woman does. She comes along to this man who is craving affection and attention, and she says, “Oh, you’re so cute. You’re so strong. You’re so muscular. You are the best there is!” She’s got dripping lips. That’s a trap. And she uses her lips to entice you in. But read on to what it says. “In the end she’s bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave.” Her lips promise honey, but her feet lead you straight to hell. Solomon warns men to be careful what they listen to, be careful of the women they look at, who they shower their attention on, because out there, there are women whose lips drip honey, but once they get you near, they stab you with a two-edged sword and lead you on the primrose path down to destruction. And he begins to give warning in verse 7, “Now then, my sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say. Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house.” If you do, there are four things you are going to lose.
A. Your strength.
Proverbs 5:9 says, “Lest you give your best strength to others and your years to one who is cruel.” If you follow a woman like that, your strength is going to be dissipated, you will end up weak in the end, old and grey and worn out.
B. Your wealth.
Proverbs 5:10 says, “Lest strangers feast on your wealth and your toil enrich another man’s house.” Men, if you decide to commit adultery, somebody is going to get rich—it’s going to be your wife’s lawyer. If you decide to break God’s law, you will be sorry in 1000 ways, and one of them is that you will be dragged into court and it will cost you thousands of dollars. You will watch all that money you saved disappear before your eyes.
C. Your health.
Proverbs 5:11 says, “At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent.” In the sex education classes at school they teach our kids three letters—STD, sexually transmitted disease. Way before the federal government discovered that, the Bible told us 3000 years ago that men who commit adultery are open to the risk of venereal disease, syphilis, hepatitis, a hundred other diseases, and worst of all, HIV developing into AIDS. We are seeing all of it in our society around us. Open the Tribune or the Sun Times and you see people dying of AIDS and these other sicknesses. Solomon warned us about it. He said if you go down that path and follow that road, this will be how you end up.
D. Your reputation.
Proverbs 5:14 says, “I have come to the brink of utter ruin in the midst of the whole assembly.” Men, I hope you enjoy it, because we are going to find out about it. You will try to keep it quiet, you will do those telephone calls late at night, fax back and forth, write little notes in secret, but be sure that your sin will find you out. I hope you enjoy your ten or fifteen minutes of happiness because that is all that you are going to get.
Sometimes we talk about breaking the Ten Commandments. Brothers, nobody has ever broken the Ten Commandments. You are broken on the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are like the huge boulders at the base of the cliff. If you decide to jump off the cliff and you hit the boulders, you will not break the boulder, the boulder will break you. When you dare to disobey what God has said, you will pay the price.
Here is the problem in verse 12. “You will say, ‘How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! I would not obey my teachers or listen to my instructors.’’ Brothers, the reason we get in trouble in this area is because we will not listen. I have to speak loudly about this, because I have to shout over ABC, NBC, CBS, Ted Turner, CNN, TNT, Lifetime, MTV, VH-1 and all the rest, and they are shouting a lot louder than I am. They are begging you to come on in. Come on in and have some fun. Come on in, nobody will know. God says don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it.
3. The Alternative (v. 15-20)
Is there any good news? Yes. Proverbs 5:15 says, “Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.” God has given you a biblical way for handling the sexual drive within you. It’s called marriage. Read on. “A loving doe, a graceful deer —may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated (in the Hebrew this word means intoxicated) by her love. Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another man’s wife?” (Proverbs 5:19-20)
Listen to me, brothers. God has created a way that is better than looking at dirty movies. He has created a way that is better than going to some prostitute, a way that is better than looking at some cheap magazine, than flirting with someone else on the job. It’s called loving your wife. If you love your wife and enjoy her and her body, you will find release for what God has put within you. Before Hugh Hefner messed it up, God thought it up. As man and woman come from the hand of Almighty God, they come as male and female. Within that relationship, the sexual relationship of a man and woman is holy, righteous, pure, good and ought to be enjoyed. That’s what the Bible says. To men who feel this tremendous urge, don’t go running somewhere else, go back to the wife that God has given you.
4. The Reminder (v. 21-23)
Finally, there is a warning at the end. Proverbs 5:21 says, “For a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord.” That means he sees everything you do. He sees what you do, where you go, who you go with, even the thoughts you think. That ought to make you stop and think. Verse 22 says, “The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast.” That means that sexual sin is self-defeating. It never satisfies or brings happiness in the long run. This is the promise in verse 23, “He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.”
You want a good biblical example of what happens when a man ignores those words? Look at Solomon, the man who wrote those words. Later in his life, led astray by his many wives, he got into immorality and idolatry. He died basically a broken and ruined man. The man who wrote those words came to a no good end.
First Steps in a New Direction
Do you want to make a new start? I give you three suggestions.
1. Listen to what God is saying. Turn off the TV, the radio, put those books away.
2. Talk it over with another godly man. If you have a struggle in this area, and about 75-80% of men do struggle in this area, don’t fight this battle alone.
3. Stay away from temptation. This is very simple. Brothers, there are some books you ought not to read. I don’t know which ones they are because I don’t know what you’re reading. But every time you read it you know it. There are some magazines you ought not to read, some radio stations you ought not to listen to, some TV programs you ought to turn off. There are some relationships you ought to be breaking in your life right now because they are leading you in the wrong direction. It could be a group of guys just kind of pulling you that way by their talk. Or it could be a relationship with a woman in your life that you know is not going in the right direction. You need to break it off right now. If you have the Holy Spirit living inside you and you know Jesus Christ, then you know what you ought to and ought not to be doing, so stay away from temptation. If you play with fire long enough, you will get burned.
The temptation to sexual impurity is very real. A man would be a fool to deny it. The problem is very prevalent because we live in a sex-saturated society. We’re told in Proverbs 5 that we have a two-fold defense.
1. Stay out of harm’s way.
2. Enjoy your own wife.
I tell you this on the basis of God’s word. If you choose to ignore this teaching, you will die. We’ll be having a premature funeral for you, because sexual immorality leads to an early grave.
Now then, where are the men who will say, “I will be different. I will be pure. You can count on me.” The women deserve to be told by the men that they can trust us. And if they can’t trust us, then they need to know that as well. Where are the men who will say, “Honey, you don’t have to worry about me any more. If I go on a business trip, you don’t have to worry about me. When I go into that motel room and see that stuff on top of the TV and can push a button, you don’t have to worry about me any more. I’m not going to do that.” For the sake of your wife, for the sake of your children, for the sake of your mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and for the sake of the unsaved multitudes out there who expect us to be different, where are the men who will say, “By God’s grace I will be pure. I will be clean. I will be different.”
By God’s grace I will be pure. I will be clean. I will be different.
I have spoken to men, but many men are single. Some are in high school, junior high, students at Moody Bible Institute or others colleges and universities in our area. Some are career professionals who are single. What are you supposed to do? That’s another sermon. But let’s understand this. God doesn’t have two standards. He doesn’t have a high standard for married men and a low standard for singles. You are still called to purity, faithfulness, holiness, and abstinence. I am not saying it is going to be easy. God set the bar, not me. Singles have to make the same commitment as married men.
There is a certain category of people who have dirty hands, dirty bodies. They would say, “You don’t know where I’ve been, what I’ve been doing.” I am not that interested where you slept last night. I want to know where you’re going to sleep tonight. I am not interested in what you read last week, I want to know what you are going to read this afternoon and tomorrow morning. I am not that concerned with what you watched on TV last week. I want to know what you will watch in the weeks to come. I am not too concerned about your past. I am concerned about your future. I want to know where you are going to go from here. If you are feeling guilty, the Lord can take that guilt away and you can have a fresh start.
If you don’t know Jesus Christ, your deepest need is to know him.
I want to know where are the men who are willing to stand for purity and righteousness. Let’s stand together in the name of Jesus Christ.