01 August 2008

The Temptation of VWMII

Temptation is one heck of a thing. Being tempted is not sinful, but past sin and sin nature opens up the mind and flesh to temptation. Both thinking temptation is sin, and being tempted has nothing to do with one's spiritual immaturity. One cannot alleviate himself of his own responsibilities found at the source of his temptations; such is cowardice or ignorance.

I spent a few months living in Simferopol Ukraine. It was a most rewarding experience in ways that could only be hinted at in a work as short as this one will be. Anyone who has their debts paid off, and is not relying on another for his sustenance should, without doubt, spend some time in another country spreading Christ's word. Such a fire ought never be ran from.

In shops with ice cream and cakes one can find the most elaborately design cakes. They were, quite literally, breathtaking. I must say here that I did find some of the most delicious pastries in Ukraine. The cakes were, decidedly, a different story. Though they were baked works of art, tasting them was like eating sugar covered cardboard. I'm sure some Ukrainians would beg to differ, but such was my experience. Though the surface of what was offered was to be admired, the actual experience of indulging the eating process was less than desirable.

Conversely, as I was preparing years later to move to my hometown in Pennsylvania, a very good lady friend baked me a cake. While it did not appear as those neatly prepared show pieces I tasted in a foreign country, it was delectable. The mere memory of it makes my mouth fill with saliva. It is sad to have left a friend who could cook such a thing!

The King James bible calls the woman of the seventh chapter of Proverbs the 'Strange Woman'. This is a classic look at the heart of the one who gives himself over to a whore. But I believe there is a deeper application that can be gleened from this selection.

"Say to wisdom, "You are my sister," and call insight your intimate friend, to keep you from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words. For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness.

And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart. She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait.
She seizes him and kisses him, and with bold face she says to him, "I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows; so now I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you.
I have spread my couch with coverings, colored linens from Egyptian linen; I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love. For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home."

With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.

And now, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth. Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death."

There is so much more to get out of this than advice in avoiding ladies of the night. Notice first where the sense-lacking young man was going. He made his way to the place of temptation. It was his choice in that hour dark, when good eyes would not be likely to see him going the way of the prostitute. There is a heart/mind set that leads to a weakness towards certain sins. Choices to walk a thin line beside sin can make one far more prone to find sin acceptable. When sin is acceptable, then the buffer separating one from transgression become weaker and weaker. Lot found his daily activity in the gates of a sinful and blasphemous city. When commanded by God to leave, he was, to say the least, reluctant.

Paul wrote to, "Abstain from every form of evil." Another aspect of this slope towards sin is the lessening of some forms of sin in repulsion of others. We become prideful because we are not homosexual, yet commit adultery with every woman walking down the street in our heart. Disgust at the wickedness of another is natural. But when we become prideful, we become as the Pharisees. We are thanking God He has not made us such as they, instead of beating our own chest at the wickedness we see in our own hearts.

Have you ever noticed how when God chooses a prophet it is not usually someone who feels it is his place to go? Isaiah stated that he and all of his kind were filthy. Moses asked God to send someone else who could talk straight. Jonah ran (granted, for not necessarily humble reasons). Philippians says that Christ took upon himself the form of a servant and did not hold unto the glory He deserved in heaven. The prideful fell when called by God: Samson. Saul, Aaron's sons. This can be a sobering thought for those who think they are God's gift to mankind.

Notice the words of the forbidden woman are not, "hey. You want sex?" She is subtle. She is complimentary. She makes it seem like she was waiting for him. She esteems in him the feeling that he is special for what she has done. She puffs him up. She gets his ego going. She puts the finest of twists on the bed of sin she has put before him. One must always beware of flattery. The artificial building up of one's image of himself serves no other purpose than selfishness. A man will say how beautiful a woman is if he wants to get into her pants. Of course this sequence can and does go both ways.

The chapter ends with the admonition that her ways are death. The tongue of a flatterer will lead to destruction. This is the same in any area of life. Take for example, a church. If a church is loud. If a church is full of flattery. If a church is willing to put the best face on sinful activity. If the preacher is a smooth talker. If a parishioner is persuaded by a worldly 'sense' rather than the authority of God's word. There is a good chance that this church is strange, or forbidden, towards true spiritual worship. When a body is not earnestly seeking God's will and face, but instead acting as drunkards in emotion and selfish in experience then this church is probably not glorifying God.

This is the way of the world; to offer the best artificial perspective of sin, to boost the pride of the sinner, and to receive gifts of pleasure and material gain for itself. When this enters the intimacy meant for a husband and wife it is a crying shame. When this enters the life of an unmarried it is a mockery to God's promise of sufficiency. When this enters the church, the church ceases to be an entity glorifying God. When this enters the world, the world dies.

The Christian ought to seek to never flatter. The Christian should never lie about the seriousness of sin, though surely mercy, love, and kindness should reign in his heart towards those who fail and those who know not the grace of God. The Christian ought to always seek the purity of the body of Christ, not allowing loud fools to proclaim their foolishness and ignorance.

I've been tempted by these things: my pride, my need for love, and my need for material possession. I've been weak in not seeing my worth in God, and not in the eyes of the woman I feel for at a given time. I've been weak in looking passed my desire for love and all that goes with it. I've been weak in wanting nothing material but what I need to survive. The Lord has been faithful and just to clean me time and time again by fire and by grace. It is by no small means I can say that I have been tempted far beyond my means of resistance, and that God has always provided a way of escape. Though I have not always succeeded, which in my flesh I am always small, the Lord has proven the power of His Spirit by keeping me from what I would, by my old nature, have been. The sin of my life has not killed me, though it ought to have time and time again. I live as a testament to God's mercy and His grace. Every moment is a gift I pray to see myself less and less in, and God so the much more in.

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