Prov. 7:21 “With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. 22 All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast 23 till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.”
One more observation on this passage needs to be made before we move on. It is to recognize Temptation’s “tipping point.” “All at once” verse 22 begins, and this is the key thought. Up until this moment, recovery is still available. But there is an indefinable point at which Temptation’s appeals have been listened to and entertained for so long – and the Believing heart’s objections denied for so long that it becomes a case of: “He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing” (Pr 29:1).
Everyone who has ever failed in resisting their sin knows exactly what I am talking about. I’ve known from my own experience and from the manifold accounts of others of a moment when we say “I couldn’t help myself”. And while some dismiss the notion, I do not. At THAT moment, the description may well be apt. Control has been lost. Self-restraint is without recall. Some no doubt lie to themselves at just where that point may be located, but a sort of madness sets in – what Bonhoffer describes as a “forgetfulness of God” clouds the mind and the individual is like a runaway train or a large truck heading downhill with the brakes gone. The crash at this point becomes inevitable.
But what needs to be said here is that there are plenty of moments up until the “tipping point” that you CAN say NO! with success. Sure, after you’ve jumped out of an airplane without a parachute, no action of your will can reverse the bad decision no matter how much you regret it throughout the descent. BUT! There was plenty of time long before the jump, when you could well have said no. I won’t get in the plane. I won’t go near the door. I won’t refuse the parachute. I won’t open the door. I won’t think about the thrill of sky-diving. All of those very manageable moments come first. And it is there the battle must be won.
Jay Adam’s uses another apt analogy. He talks about one who comes home every day from their job as an auto mechanic, and throws their greasy, oily rag down into the basement. The rags continue to build and build until one day – they are so near the furnace that when it ignites to warm the home, it also sets the rags on fire. And at that point, the fire rages beyond control. But it never had to get there. Once ignited, one cannot control the flames of lust either. The key, is to make the easy decisions BEFORE the tipping point – the ones we can well control, so that when the furnace kicks in – there are no greasy rags there to set ablaze.
Now beloved, this means you are going to have to pay attention to yourself and your thought patterns and your feelings – and to make simple, very doable decisions on a regular basis. Let’s put it in the context of sexual lust. There are TV shows you simply will not be able to watch. Because they are sinful in and of themselves? Perhaps so, perhaps not. But more, because these particular shows feature subject matter and or persons you find particularly attractive, which add to your pile of rags. Magazines you cannot buy or peruse. Places you cannot go. Music you cannot listen to. Ads on the computer screen which while not overtly sexual – you know full well draw you close to the edge and/or link to other things which are. The decisions need to be made at this level. Once the tipping point is reached it is too late.
Someone no doubt (their deceptive hearts churning at this) will say: “aren’t you being legalistic?” No. I am being REAL-istic. I am not saying these are new categories of sin. I am saying you cannot pass “along the street near her corner”, or take “the road to her house”, or be alone in “the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness.” You cannot, because these are the things which bring you to the brink – right up to the tipping point. And when you’ve reached there – the smallest nudge will send you plummeting down the rocky crags to the death below.
The time to say no – is long before the tipping point. It is back when you have more than enough resources – because God’s grace promises to give them (1 Cor. 10:13). He does NOT promise to deliver you when you deliberately place yourself in more temptation than He has given you grace for. Let him who has an ear – hear.