Originally published in 2011
It is certainly an understatement to say that we live in a sex saturated society. Indecency, immodesty, and the general acceptance of sexual immorality assault the Christian through all forms of media: magazines, billboards, and the 24/7 blitzkrieg of cable television and video on demand, to name a few. Couple this with the frequent travel demands placed on many men in this increasingly global economy, the anonymity of the internet, and the increasing acceptance of fornication and adultery in society, even within Christian circles, and you understand how many a man struggles to stay morally pure and faithful to the “wife of his youth.”
This point was driven home to me years ago when Stacy and I lived in Houston. We had been invited to join a church in a neighboring community that was having some special outreach. The church was a “mega-church” wannabe, with room upon room of activities and workshops.
As we wandered from event to event, I saw a man I had known years earlier. I had been to this man’s house on many occasions. He and his wife used to host a community gathering that I would attend from time to time. He would lead in prayer, music, and Bible study. At the time, I remember really appreciating his godly wife. She was like a mother to the young Christians who gathered there. I recall with fondness the incredible pies she made, and the coffee at their house was always perfect.
I was excited to have come across this man, and I was eager to introduce Stacy to him and his wife! As we approached, his wife was standing with her back to us. However, something didn’t seem right; and, when she turned around, I discovered why. It was a different woman—a new woman. I would later learn that the man I had esteemed so highly had fallen morally. He had lost his wife, his children, and most of his friends. He had traded in the faithful wife of his youth for a “newer model.” And, sadly, he had a new church that was apparently accepting of his behavior, since he and his new girlfriend attended together each Sunday.
Do I blame the environment in which we live for his sin? Of course not. This man owned his own sin, his own lust, his own failing – and the resulting consequences. But, it does beg the question, how can a man stay morally pure in times like ours? How can Christians safeguard their purity in the midst of a filthy culture?
A Light Unto Our Path
Like any problem that besets us, God does not leave us in the dark. God’s Word shines bright and ready to guide our steps, and to help us live pure lives for the glory of God. Recently, I preached through Genesis 39, a text that tells us of one of God’s men living in a society that may have been even more corrupt than ours. The man was Joseph and the society was Egypt. At the time, Egypt was a morally bankrupt society. Promiscuity and infidelity were commonplace. Sexual perversion was embraced and celebrated. It was also a time of slavery, and slaves were expected to satisfy their masters’ most carnal and debased desires.
You may already know the story of Joseph. Although sold into slavery by his brothers, this young Hebrew was favored by God and made the Chief Operating Officer of Potiphar, Inc. Joseph was a very capable man with a keen business sense. But, he was also “handsome in form and appearance” and caught the eye of Potiphar’s wife, who tried to seduce him, saying, “Lie with me.” If you read the account in Genesis 39, you find that Joseph did not succumb to her advances. He stood his ground and came out victorious. But, how did he do it? In the same way that you and I can.
Avoid the Darkness
The first thing we see with Joseph is that he seemed to be aware of his limitations. He made a commitment to never be alone with this woman. If she came in to the garden, he went into the living room. If she entered the conservatory, he exited to the kitchen. He avoided her at all costs.
The same thing should be said of Christian men. We should be aware of our weaknesses and avoid places where temptation lurks. Movies, television, computer screens, magazines, lonely hotel rooms—danger lurks.
Why be like the young man in Proverbs chapter 7 who foolishly puts himself in harm’s way—who passes “along the street near her corner,” who takes the “path to her house in the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark of night”? You get the picture. He places himself in the palm of temptation and plunges into destruction, like an “ox to slaughter.”
Being a Christian is a call to action! As the Apostle Paul said in Romans 13:14, we should not make any provision for the flesh to fulfill its lust. That is a call to avoid the darkness.
Brothers, this is such a simple thing. And yet, it can also be a difficult thing. We need to assess our own hearts and identify the twilight, the evening, the black of night that we know is there. Where is it? Is it in your television, in your pay-per-view? Is it in your computer or at the lunch date you know you should not take? Where is it? Men, identify it, and turn from it. Avoid the darkness—run!
Keep Your Eye on the Ball
The second thing Joseph does is focus not on the momentary pleasure he could have with his master’s wife, but he remembers his responsibilities. He tells the woman, “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife.” Joseph has his eye on the ball, not on his own pleasure.
Likewise, Christian men should also remember their responsibilities, they should keep their eye on the ball. This is the first and most important lesson coaches teach men in sports – keep your eye on the ball! How does this work with regard to temptation? If a man would just pause and think about how his infidelity would impact others; if he would only consider his witness before lost friends and family members; if he would ponder the pain and devastation he would bring upon his wife and children—his parents, grandparents, and siblings, perhaps he would shudder in fear when tempted. Many men have lost their jobs and careers, ruined their reputations, sacrificing it all for one empty night of lust. Many marriages might have been saved by simply counting the cost, by keeping one’s eyes on what really mattered.
And, while Joseph was not married at the time, could it be that he hoped to be someday? Perhaps his view was also on the future, one he would enjoy with the woman God would give to him. Young men, keep your thoughts on your future! And, for those of you who are married, consider the good gift God has given you, consider your own wife, consider your life with her, now, and in the future. Remember Proverbs 5:19, which tells us, “As a loving deer and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; And always be enraptured with her love.”
Call it What it Is
The third thing we see in Joseph’s life is that he is brutally honest with himself, with those around him, and with the situations that confront him. Hear his words when confronted with an opportunity to satisfy his mortal passions, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”
Joseph calls adultery a great wickedness. He sees it as a dark and deceitful action. This is something we should do as well. We can certainly acknowledge that sin may have momentary pleasure. If it didn’t, no one would do it. But, Joseph seemed to understand that it was not an affair; it was not a fling; it was sin—ugly, destructive, and vile. And, it was a sin against God—an evil affront to his Maker. Recognizing sin for what it is helps us to keep it in perspective. The allure, the flashing lights, the intoxication, the mystery, and the sordid excitement peel away and all we are left with is the hollow darkness of putrefied sin.
Run Away, Run to God
Joseph’s last strategy should be ours as well. If we are faced with a temptation that is beyond us, we must run. Joseph ran—even leaving behind his tunic. If we find ourselves “stuck” by some difficult circumstance, we must still run—perhaps even leaving behind what threatens to ruin us.
Jesus said in Matthew 5 that “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” Whatever it takes, whatever sacrifice that means, get rid of the temptation. Leave your tunic behind, cancel that business trip, unplug your computer, take along an accountability partner, invest in some accountability software (I highly recommend Covenant Eyes). If necessary, quit your job…do whatever it takes!
The Apostle Paul counseled his apprentice, Timothy, with these words, “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy).
Here is a secret of Joseph’s success against sexual temptation—a temptation that we are called to master. We must be ready to run. Put on your track shoes and hightail it out of Dodge, but run with a destination. Set your destination toward Jesus. Consider His call to walk before Him, Coram Deo—before His face in all that we do.
God calls us to live in honor and holiness. And a wonderful thing about our God is that He gives us the strength and the ability to do it as we lean on Him. We indeed are weak, but He is strong. If we pursue His righteousness, if we hold on to His love, if we satisfy ourselves with His peace, through prayer and through His Word, He will prevail on our behalf. He is able when we are not. It is because of Him, because of Jesus, that no weapon formed against us will prosper. And this includes the slings and arrows of sexual temptation.
Brothers, I encourage you to reflect upon the life of Joseph. Consider his example of victory in the face of daunting temptation. But realize, the power to withstand the enticements that pursued him were based on his trust in his God. And likewise, you can indeed stand against the sexual temptation of this world. You can survive. And so can your wife, your children, your family, your friends… and your testimony.
And to make it legal, the opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of the other elders or members of Providence Church.