With all of the recent attention being paid to sexual harassment and sexual abuse, there is an underlying issue that no one seems to address, namely, the problem of lust or illicit sexual desire. It’s a sin problem.
Sexual sin like any other dominant, habitual sin doesn’t occur with one fleeting act. Rather such predominant sins are based on many, many little decisions. Often the decisions themselves are not necessarily wrong or sinful. But when they are strung together they lead you into temptation. That phrase in our Lord’s prayer, “lead us not into temptation”(Matthew 6:13) is not a matter of requesting God to stop tempting us (cf. James 1:13). Instead it’s asking God for assistance to help us stop making little decisions that if left unchecked would bring us right to sin’s doorstep.
One strategy for fighting the predominant sins in our lives, whether they are the lusts of the flesh, lusts of the eyes or the pride of life (1 John 2:16) is to consider the wisdom of Proverbs 5:8: “Keep your way far from (the immoral woman), and do not go near the door of her house.”
This instruction from father to son applies to everybody and to all sin situations. So imagine for a moment that your habitual sin is like a doorway of a house located in a cul-de-sac of a particular neighborhood.
Now maybe there is a reason you have to be in that neighborhood or maybe you’re just choosing to go for a jog there. That’s a choice. And so far, you have liberty to make that choice. You haven’t done anything wrong if you are acting with a clear conscience under God (cf. Rom 14:5).
But if you know that in a certain cul-de-sac is the doorway for your habitual sin, you need to be vigilant to keep away from that cul-de-sac, and likely you need to stay out of the neighborhood.
Sometimes in dealing with other sinners in evangelism, counselling and discipling, we have to carefully enter neighbourhoods of experience that aren’t sinful, but could lead into sin. We need to be very careful in those contexts. Similarly, going to the beach, the pool, the restaurant or to the internet may be gateways to sin, but they don’t have to be. The same with a couple who are dating or engaged. Their God-given drive for sexual union has to be kept under control. Otherwise they’ll keep going straight for the cul-de-sac telling themselves they’ll stop if they go to far. But it rarely works that way.
Being Neighbourly to Your Resident Sin
Now just because others might be able enter and exit certain environments, doesn’t mean that you automatically have license to jog in that part of town. Both Peter and Paul agree that you shouldn’t use your freedom as a cover-up for sin (See 1 Peter 2:16; Galatians 5:13).
So what if you frequently go for a walk in that neighborhood, and stroll through that cul-de-sac? You still haven’t necessarily sinned in the same way as before. You haven’t knocked on that door yet. But you know that you’ve put yourself in a place to be hospitable and neighborly to the resident sin that will destroy you.
Christians get defeated because they will gauge their success or failure at overcoming sin by whether they enter the door or not. Yet they’ll repeatedly ‘fall’ into the doorway of sin because they are far too careless about the bad neighbourhood or cul-de-sac. They fail to spot the roadways and intersections that lead to their resident sins. This is often the problem with those who are ‘addicted’ to pornography. They permit themselves far too much liberty before they’re near the doorway of that sin.
Maybe it’s loneliness or fatigue or depression or anger. They fail to map their own location spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Because they don’t know where they are, they wander into areas that leave them too confused to get out of. Surfing the internet, befriending a coworker, drinking alcohol, and many other things may or may not be permissible, but in their weakened state, they may be clearly unprofitable (1 Cor 10:23).
Pulling into the cul-de-sac, the careless person has already lost the fight. They are so weak that it is very difficult for them to resist sin when they are at the Proverbs 5:8 doorway. Instead, they needed to flee the bad neighbourhood before the doorway was even in sight (2 Tim 2:22).
Are Sins of Omission Masking Sins of Commission?
Often there is far too little zeal to reform habits of frequenting neighbourhoods with bad cul-de-sacs. There is far too little zeal to remove oneself from a ministry until the urge to frequent the bad neighbourhood is brought under control.
Are you radical enough to give up Instagram or Facebook, or go back to an old flip phone or whatever you need to do in order to avoid the neighborhood and the cul-de-sac that leads you into temptation?
This is not an anti-technology rant. But it is an anti-antinomian rant.
Do you realise that there are liberties which other Christian’s may enjoy in good conscience, which you cannot without plunging into sin?
Remember what Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.” (1 Cor 6:12)
Maybe you just can’t drink beer or watch Netflix or use the internet after 8pm. You need to humble yourself and recognize that if you are in certain neighborhoods, you can’t help but go straight to that cul-de-sac, and then its only a matter of time until you will be on the front steps and knocking on the door to sin. Careless liberties can mask sins of omission that lead to sins of commission.
Forgiveness for the Wanderer
Thankfully, there is forgiveness in the gospel of Jesus Christ for the times when a sinner sins. But the believer confesses Jesus as Lord and knows that as a servant, all diligence and care must be taken to watch over the Lord’s possessions—even ourselves (1 Cor 6:19-20), to serve as living sacrifices, “holy and acceptable to God” (Rom 12:1-2). There is forgiveness for the wanderer as 1 John 1:9 reminds us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
So with holy joy, the believer’s confidence is that they will enter into a new residence, one prepared by their own living Lord Jesus Christ who has preceded them to glory (John 14:3). That is a cul-de-sac we look forward to visiting, “dwelling in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23:6, 27:4).
As the hymn writer put it:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.