By Pastor Ed Collins
Does a bird fall into a trap on the ground when there is no bait in it? Does a trap spring up from the earth when it captures nothing at all? – Amos 3:5
No and no, to answer the prophet Amos’ questions. What’s he getting at, though? The simple gist of his wisdom is that if the end goal of capturing prey is to get it into a trap, then the trap must be rigged with bait. Bait is the appeal to the birdie. Lust is the bait for man. Man is the prey. Sin is the trap. Like a bird caught in a trap, death ensues.
But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. – James 1:14-16
A wise person, like a cagy old bird, knows a trap when he sees it. Maybe he’s got the scars that prove it. No matter how tempting the bait is, he flees from it; and he does so quickly, for he knows that the longer he looks at it, the harder it is to refuse. And by the way, God doesn’t set traps. “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone” (James 1:13).
If there’s one thing we can say about our Creator, it’s that He knows His creatures inside and out. After all, He created us, right? In fact, the Bible tells us that God knows us better than we know ourselves. This is why the Bible tells us, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God” (James 1:5a). Some of you, after reading this, are going to go to Him in prayer and ask for guidance on this (I pray you do). My advice to you is listen carefully to what He tells you – I promise it won’t be that I’m crazy.
Never approach the Word of God with a worldly lens; rather, pray earnestly to God and ask Him to reveal to you the Truth, as ancient and unpopular as it may be by contemporary standards. Learn to do that and you’ll begin to see why He has men of God, like myself, encouraging you this way.
Presumably, most of you reading this have gone through your adolescent years. So you remember what it was like when your hormones were ramping up into overdrive. If you don’t, just go find an old Bruce Springsteen album and let “The Boss” take you on a trip down memory lane. In any case, is it fair to say that during your teen years you experienced what we might call your “sexual awakening”? Some secular experts place this as early as ten to twelve years old – middle school age. A good Biblical word for this time in a person’s life is “youth”. What does the Bible say about youthful lusts?
Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. – 2 Timothy 2:20-22
The Bible clearly states that we ought to “flee from youthful lusts”. The Greek word for “flee” means to flee away, seek safety by flight; to run away. This is an important text because it reveals our Creator’s counsel on how we ought to deal with the bait, our “youthful lusts”. And by the way, Timothy was most likely in his thirties, so we know that we don’t shed our youthful lusts with age (this wisdom clearly applies to everyone, regardless of age). As we noted earlier in scripture, when we give into lust, we sin, which brings forth death (James 1:14-16). God saves us from death; He doesn’t deliver us over to it, at least not without our consent. His will is purely for our own good. “[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
God the Holy Spirit could’ve inspired Paul to use a different word than the one that means to flee, run away, seek safety by flight. He could’ve had Paul use the word he used in Ephesians 6:12 that is translated “wrestle”, which implies sticking around for battle. But He didn’t. He specifically tells us to run away!
Our Creator knows our weaknesses and our inabilities. If He tells us to “flee from youthful lusts”, He’s making a direct statement, leaving no wiggle room for adolescent-inspired interpretation. Our Creator has informed us that sticking around means you will fail. It means that you will eventually fall prey to temptation, like the little birdie taking the bait in the trap. He’s saying that the bait is irresistible, so run away from it before you are ensnared in the trap!
So am I saying what you think I’m saying? Yup. Can you even believe my audacity? I say that tongue in cheek, of course. Listen, I’m not here to make friends. I’m here to speak the truth about my Lord’s will for you. If you disagree with me, I understand that you are not taking offense with me, but rather the Holy Spirit, Himself, the One whose scripture I’ve been quoting here. “So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you” (1 Thessalonians 4:8).
Let me put this into plain language, just in case you haven’t had your “aha moment” yet. You had your sexual awakening when you were in your teens (possibly prior). You’ve had lusts of the flesh ever since. The last thing you want to do, if you desire to remain a clean, usable vessel for God’s glory, is put yourself into positions the Word says to run away from. The obvious example, in America at least, is so-called “dating”. Could there be a more antagonistic situation to pure thinking, to clean thoughts? You’d be hard pressed to identify one, save watching or reading pornography.
If you think I’m being “over the top” here, it’s only because you grew up in the last century. Contemporary “dating” is a modern phenomenon in Christian circles. The 1960’s hosted the Sexual Revolution in this country. That was fifty years ago. While we can’t blame the flower children and the free lovers completely, they surely advanced ungodly ideas about sexuality. Given the simple fact that sex was designed by our Creator for marriage only, and sexual thoughts, too, then it’s easy to see how far our societal norms have strayed from His will.
What Holy Scripture states is that in order for Him to use us to His glory, we must be clean, not living filthy lives in our lusts, recklessly sinning, for that type of lifestyle leads us away from the abundant grace life in Christ. We noted earlier, “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21). Do you want to suggest that today’s “dating” is clean or honorable, increasing one’s usefulness to the Master??? You’d have to throw out a lot more Holy Scripture than just what I’ve quoted in this short article.
You are not going to be the exception to the rule, my friend. You won’t be, so stop pretending you have abilities that God never gave you. I can write this because the Word of God tells me that you are unable to resist your own youthful lusts, less running away. Your Creator has commanded you to “flee from youthful lusts” because eventually, you’ll sin – let’s face it, how long does it really take for any one of us to have a lustful thought when left alone with an attractive member of the opposite sex? Jesus calls these thoughts no less sinful than the actual act.
You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. – Matthew 5:27-28
Do you think a teenager making out (kissing) on a couch isn’t having sinful thoughts? How about you and another doing the same? Then why promote a situation as “OK” if it’s a factory for impure thoughts and therefore sins of the mind? Do we love our children or not? How about ourselves? How about others we might be sinning with? If we love, then lets protect the virtue God has given each of us by avoiding every possible situation that might produce sins of the mind as well as the flesh. Let’s accept the fact that sinning occurs long before physical intercourse. Saying, “Well, we’ve never had sex, so it’s all good” is an ungodly attempt to leave room for satisfying youthful lusts, for it supposes that anything up to, but not including sexual intercourse that leads to conception, isn’t sin. That’s a lie and the cause for many regrets.
God doesn’t want any of His children to have regrets or bear the scars of sin, even though He’s forgiven every one of them.
Why do you think that before the aforementioned Sexual Revolution took place, it was commonplace to have chaperones? Why do you think parents were so adamant about not leaving their opposite sex adolescent children alone together? It’s because they knew better. Today, I sound like a dinosaur, which is what Satan wants. He wants guys like me to be written off as fanatical. Whatever. I don’t care what this world thinks of me. I love you enough to write this…give me that…for starters.
One final thought, expressed through a few simple questions. Read them slowly and thoughtfully. What is the benefit of contemporary dating, other than to satisfy your own lusts? How can you say you care about someone else and knowingly contribute as bait for sin in their life?…sounds like selfish love, motivated by selfish lusts, to me. What is the benefit of your dating now to your future husband or wife? How will your experiences today affect your future marriage? How will your future spouse’s actions today affect you?…and don’t say they won’t. I’ve never met a single honest person who says their preference for marriage is to someone who’s shared themselves physically with another person.
Can we stop playing games here, my friends??? Can we stop teaching our children, encouraging them, even, to go out and “date”??? Can we stop mainstreaming dysfunction and calling it “good” or “innocent” or “harmless”? These are the last words we ought to be teaching our kids, ourselves even, regarding such things. Holy Scripture exists to protect our souls from harm (Philippians 4:7), but we must cling to it for what it is, truth that sets us free (John 8:32). If you want to keep pretending as if you never read this, then at least be honest with yourself right now and admit that you prefer the lusts of your flesh over the desires of God.
God’s not in the business of leading you away from godliness, of tempting you with youthful lusts, or of turning a blind eye to something that harms His children. He’s telling you to run away from youthful lusts, to quit being selfish, and to quit playing pretend. What most of you consider “dating” is actually an abomination and a direct attack on the purity and sanctity of human relationships, primarily marriage and secondarily, family.
There’s a difference between Biblical courting and American-style dating. The specific end goal of the prior is marriage; whereas the latter is satisfying one’s youthful lusts. Can you guess which is holy and which isn’t? Can you guess which one is virtuous and which is a manufacturing plant for sin, both mental and physical? Can you guess which one brings glory to God and which doesn’t? Ask yourself, which do you subscribe to?
You can meet Pastor Ed at North Christian Church in N. Digthon MA or visit their website at nccdighton.org.