(We could do a couple of dozen posts under this title. This is one of them.)
Our Men's Fellowship is working its way through Taylor and Kapic's edition of John Owen's Overcoming Sin and Temptation. I'm a huge Owen fan, but I'd say I've found the contents of varying value. But what's good is awfully good, and makes the whole worthwhile.
Having said all that, this statement particularly stood out to me:
"Hiding of ends and designs is the principal property of deceit"What Owen says is more profound than it might initially appear. For one thing, it rests on the assumption that God's way really, truly is best. Any contrary case, therefore, must rest on deception.
(John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation, edited by Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor [Crossway Books: 2006], p. 297)
Have you really gotten your arms around that concept, just for starters? "This God--his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true" (2 Samuel 22:31a) Or has Hollywood (or Eden, for that matter) convinced you deep down inside that sometimes God is too narrow and traditional, that sometimes it really is for the best to "burst their bonds asunder"? Have you really accepted that you will never, ever have a better idea than God's revealed will?
More specifically, this made me think of something I've noticed throughout Proverbs. Again and again, Solomon takes something initially appealing, and says, "Now wait, don't look away just yet, Bunky. I want you to see what this leads to." And then he ruthlessly and relentlessly tears the misty, gauzy mask off of the tempting path. As it were, he grabs us by the scruff of the neck, and says, "Now you look. Keep looking! Now, do you see what happens?"
I call this the "Consider the end" theme in Proverbs.
In doing this, Solomon is laboring to counter that favorite tool of temptation. Start looking for this theme, and you'll see it all over the book. Just to single out a few f'rinstances:
- They seem like a fun, active group of kids, don't they? And they want you! It would be great to "belong," wouldn't it? Ah, yes, but consider the end: how a violent life leads to a violent end (Proverbs 1:10-19)
- My, that young thing's hot! And she talks so sweet; really makes you feel like a man, doesn't she? Ah, yes, but consider the end: how going after her invites ruin and waste to your character and life, and humiliation before those who did stick with the way of wisdom (Proverbs 5).
- Bed is so inviting, isn't it? All dark and warm and quiet; not the hassle and hustle and bustle that you know lurks Out There. Just a few more minutes won't hurt... and a few more.... Ah, yes, but consider the end: how a life of leisure leads to loser's end (Proverbs 6:6-11).
- Boy, that jerk really has it coming to him, doesn't he? And you know just what to say, to hit his personal bull's-eye; and it would feel so satisfying! Ah, yes, but consider the end: how quickly a warm situation can be escalated to a shooting war (Proverbs 15:1).
- Fun computer game, huh? Next time, you can raise your score 50 points! Man, you could do this forever, couldn't you? Ah, yes, but consider the end: can you make a living, and feed a family, doing this (Proverbs 28:19)?
- It's so hot, and you're so tired. You can just let that chore go. Probably something good on TV, isn't there? And something after that. Ah, yes, but consider the end: how taking the easy way now makes the way much harder in the future (Proverbs 15:19).
- That guy keeps beating you over the head with the Bible. You hate that! Besides, you don't want that kind of legalistic, book-religion. You don't worship a book, right? You want a real spirituality. You find prayer much more fulfilling. Ah, yes, but consider the end: how you shutting your ears to God's Word today, means that God will shut His ear to your repulsive, self-worshiping, idolatrous prayer tomorrow (Proverbs 28:9).
The way of wisdom is to consider the end of this temptation. Relentlessly and mercilessly go beyond the pleasing exterior. If you respond to this enticement, what comes next? And then what? And what after that?
Force yourself to see how the lingering look can lead to a flirtation; the flirtation to emotional involvement; the emotional involvement to physical involvement; the physical involvement to the shaming of the name of God, the heartbroken betrayal of every loved one, the destruction of character, to ruin and shame and misery. Connect the dots.
If you shrink from the destination, don't take the turnoff.
PS — say, this could be a companion-piece to my recent post on Christian dating, couldn't it?