The Allurement of Christ
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15)*
Thomas Chalmers’ sermon The Expulsive Power of a New Affection has proven to be extremely helpful to Christians who are eager to overcome sinful desires. In it, Chalmers suggested that all men live in a state of constant desire. We all desire something at any given moment. It is impossible not to desire something for even a single second. In our fallen condition, the object of our hearts’ desires will always be the sinful allurements of the world. We may come to know the vanity of these things, but we will inevitably turn from one empty desire to another until a power outside of us enables us to desire God as the object of supreme value.
Chalmers illustrates this with the picture of a boy running after the childish desire of pleasure until he grows discontent. He turns from pleasure to run after the more sophisticated desire for money. Having grown disillusioned with the emptiness of riches, he sets his heart on the quest for power. In this endless transition from one desire to another—the heart is left powerless and empty. Nevertheless, the boy—now a man—is still left with desire. He cannot simply stop desiring. Chalmers’ wrote, “The love of the world cannot be expunged by a mere demonstration of the world’s worthlessness. But may it not be supplanted by that which is more worthy than itself?”
Proverbs 7 is one of the ten father-to-son talks found in Proverbs. A father counsels his son with respect to the danger of going after the adulterous woman. This chapter has sometimes been understood to be a warning against adultery, and sometimes as a warning against evil in general. The latter interpretation is supported by that fact that, in Prov. 8, wisdom is personified as a woman who calls out to young men in contrast with the adulterous woman of Prov. 7. Whether the adulterous woman of Prov. 7 is understood to be a specific individual or evil in general makes little difference; the same warning is being sounded. There is something attractive about sin, but in the end it is worthless and deadly.
One of the striking features of this talk is that in counseling his son about the dangers of the adulterous woman, the father actually goes to great length to describe the attraction of sin. We sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that sin is not attractive. We can speak about it as if it had no power to draw our hearts after it. But the testimony of Scripture, and our own experience, is that there is a very real “pleasure” to sin, though it is a “passing pleasure.” If it were not, we would never run after it.
The father warns his son of the subtle way in which the adulterous woman allures the young man. He walks his son through the steps by which she seeks to draw him into her bed of sin. She dresses to attract (v.9), makes herself accessible (vv. 10-12), allures with a kiss (v. 13), and even presents herself as being religious (v. 14). The allurement is summed up when she finally says, “I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come let us take our fill of love until morning; let us delight ourselves with love” (v. 17-18).
While there is a very real attraction, the consequences are devastating. The father explains that the young man “did not know it would cost his life.” He exhorts his children to listen to him. He encourages them to turn away from her paths. He finally reminds them that many strong men were slain by her; that “her house…descends to the chambers of death.” But is this alone enough to keep them from her?
It is likely that King Solomon wrote Proverbs 7. It may have been something his father, King David, taught him when he was a boy. Sadly, both David and Solomon fell into adulterous relationships. But there is a significant connection between the language of Proverbs 7:17 and the language of Psalm 45:. Psalm 45 is a Messianic Psalms of David. It is a meditation on the glory and beauty of the Messiah. Hebrews 1:8-9 explicitly links it to Christ. At the height of the meditation the Psalmist wrote, “All Your garments are scented with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.” This is the exact language used in Proverbs 7:17 to highlight the allurement of the adulterous woman. Jesus Christ allures His people with His beauty. He is the only One who can draw our hearts off of sin. The way to keep from turning to the pleasures of the world is to turn to Jesus instead. When we are tempted to sin, we must remember that there is another who is “altogether lovely.” When we ask the question, “Is there something more attractive than the passing pleasures of sin,” we must remember the words of Hebrews 12:1-2, “let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us…looking unto Jesus the author and finished of our faith.” When we desire Him we will find that we have experienced the expulsive power of a new affection.
*This devotional appeared in the May 2011 edition of Tabletalk Magazine.