The Way of Temptation and the Highway of Holiness

Jim turned out the lights, locked his office, and headed for the parking lot. He glanced at his watch—8:30pm. He would have usually grabbed a late dinner on the way home, but he couldn’t stop thinking about that subtle, alluring gesture from Kelly, his new personal assistant. Was it an invitation?, he thought to himself as he climbed into his car and started the engine.

Jim leaned back in the leather seat and closed his eyes. He wanted adventure—something more than his wife, children, church, and work seemed to offer. Kelly’s house wasn’t exactly on the way home, but he figured no harm in just driving by. He put the car in gear, exited the parking lot, and winded his way toward Kelly’s neighborhood. He turned down her street.

As he approached her house, he slowed the car and looked up toward the front windows. To his surprise, Kelly spotted him and waved through the kitchen window; he saw her heading toward the front door. No harm in just stopping to say hi, he reasoned.

His car glided to a stop and Jim got out.

The Way of Temptation

Proverbs 4:14–15 tells us, “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on.” As if to be more specific, Solomon explains,

For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword…. Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house. Prov. 5:3–4, 8

Too often, we put ourselves in the way of temptation, even when we know our flesh is weak. Too often, we “go near the door of her house”—

  • that website that (we know) will lead to more explicit images
  • that bar where we consume more than we know is right
  • the card tables where we blow our money
  • the store that sells pain-relieving drugs, even when the pain has long gone
  • the literal door of a woman’s house who’s not your wife

It’s been said that when fantasy meets opportunity, the result gives birth to sin. We oftentimes hear the condemnation of the fantasy, the lust, and the greed. And rightly so—they not only lead to spiritual ruin, but they also displease our loving heavenly Father.

But what about the opportunity? What about the way of temptation? Proverbs tells us to “turn away from it and pass on.” We need to understand the actual danger and life-shattering effects of sin, and that the way of temptation is lined with the wreckage of good intentions. Countless men and women have found themselves trapped in a hopeless, dark existence because they believed the lie that way of temptation is safe. It’s not.

My brothers and sisters, we need to heed this warning: putting ourselves in the way of temptation exposes our weakness to sin, and sin produces inner turmoil, relational damage, spiritual darkness, and a fractured experiential relationship with God. Nothing good comes from travelling down the way of temptation. May we “make no provision for the flesh” (Rom. 13:14) and “give no opportunity to the devil” (Eph. 4:27). May we turn aside from the way of temptation and not go near the door of her house.

But we’re not called to only avoid temptation; we’re called to soar—with freedom and hope and new-dawn mercies—on the highway of holiness.

The Highway of Holiness

Isaiah’s prophecy, though much of it bleak and filled with many warnings for God’s people, envisions a day when God will gather and save His people from their sins through a Suffering Servant. And when the Lord comes, His people will rejoice in His presence and sing for the wonder of His amazing grace.

Isaiah develops the picture: “And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness” (Isa. 35:8). God doesn’t save us that we would continue in the way of temptation and sin; He saves us that we might be a holy people, as He is holy (1 Pet. 1:16). He saves us to be His treasured possession who proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9).

And this, my friends, is mercy that comes in the morning. This is the clear conscience and peaceful soul you long to enjoy when you lay your head on your pillow at night. Walking in the highway of holiness brings the oil of gladness and cup of blessing, the joy of treasuring Christ and the feet that tread on high places. Walking in the highway of holiness is bringing all of your life in submission and service to the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Oh, you who put your trust in the merits of Christ, turn aside from the way of temptation and flee to the One whose yoke is easy, and whose burden is light. Though tempted in every way, as we are, Jesus never gave in. He was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. He walked in the way of suffering, that we would walk in the way of holiness.

Two Practical Take-Aways

I want to leave you with two very practical ways to turn aside from the way of temptation and onto the highway of holiness. First, regularly avail yourself to the means of grace—God’s Word, the Lord’s Supper, and prayer—with sincerity and eagerness to gain greater knowledge of and love for Christ. God uses these ordinary means to accomplish His purposes in you. The child of God who meditates upon the Scriptures will have a growing distaste for the way of temptation and growing desire for the highway of holiness. You will become that tree planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in its season (Ps. 1:3).

Second, for my brothers, you need other men who both know and love you. You need men who care for you—your life, your marriage, your health, and your soul—and who will caution you against paths of temptation. You need brothers who will weep in your weeping and rejoice in your rejoicing, and who point you to the Savior. And they need you to do the same.

For my sisters, please be patient with your brothers and encourage them in holiness. You, too, need fellow pilgrims—both older and younger women who spur you on to love and good works. Temptation comes in many forms and its path is never far away. But treasure the Scriptures each day and plead your heart to the Lord. Don’t give up; we love (and need) to see your purity, your tenderness, and your desire walk with Jesus.

May our God bless and keep you, and may He lead you in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake (Ps. 23:3).