Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds
Part 17: Sex!
April 18, 2010
· Read first page of leftover
Scripture reading: Romans 13:12-14 (Jewel)
As the slide says, I am going to be talking about sex today. I can see the reaction on your faces. The funny thing is that you seem to forget that.
· Last time I spoke on sex, one visitor told me (as I spoke) that she was sleeping with her boyfriend, by her smirk.
She was thinking you’re a prude, you’re an idiot, a fundamentalist, you don’t know what you are talking about. And that is pretty much how the world views me.
Q In what area do you think Christians are most considered “counter culture”/backwards?
Our sexual standards: We are accused of being prudish, stupid repressed, homophobic, hatful, controlling, and dangerous:
Christopher Hitchens (“God is not Great”): “[Religion] is both the result and cause of dangerous sexual repression.”
Comment online: “[The grand crime of Christianity is that] it promotes and sustains a neurotic, life-crippling prudishness about sex and relationships that damages people in and out of the church.
This is what people think of us (not all this articulate). Do they have a point?
Q Are our sexual standards (esp. homosexuality and premarital sex) at best out of date and at worst dangerous?
Reading this week what folks say about you and your rules for sex, I feel like a friend is being slandered. Your laws bring life, not death. Whatever you command is for our benefit. And help us navigate a way through this sex-crazed culture.
Last week, we talked about the kosher and purity laws in Leviticus, how God used things ritual practices to teach Israel about what it meant to be holy. They were external “training wheels” to teach them about internal holiness.
· But when Jesus was on earth, he set aside the ritual laws and took off the training rules by making the focus on holiness.
Now we look at Leviticus 18 and the many other passages that address sexual purity. Let’s look at some of them:
Leviticus 18:5-9 “Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the LORD. No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the LORD. Do not dishonor your father by having sexual relations with your mother. She is your mother; do not have relations with her. Do not have sexual relations with your father’s wife; that would dishonor your father. Do not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere.”
So far no one disagrees with this stuff, it’s pretty sick. However, we know that some sick stuff happened in Egypt (where they had been) and Canaan (where they were going).
· Furthermore, since they couldn’t marry “outside” they needed rules for how close was too close.
Leviticus 18:22-23 “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable. Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion.”
Here we get more controversial. Homosexuality is consider a normal, loving option. Bestiality isn’t really considered normal and loving, but it makes for great redneck jokes. We don’t think of it as a perversion.
Q The million dollar question: Are they obsolete commands (like not eating pork) or enduring moral commands (like stealing)?
After all, in the next chapter:
Leviticus 19:27-28 Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard. Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.
If tattoos are sin, most of my congregation is sinning, and if trimming your beard is, than all of the guys are in trouble.
· Many liberal churches say the OT’s sexual ethics are obsolete.
That’s a nice solution – we can all get along, live and let live. The problem is that Jesus and the NT writers clearly considered them to be enduring moral commands:
1. Jesus, even as he declared all foods clean, specifically listed adultery and sexual immorality as sin (Mark 7:21).
2. In the Jerusalem Council, sexually immorality was listed (Acts 15:29, note that Paul discarded all the immorality).
3. NT writer frequently link holiness and sexual purity:
1 Thessalonians 4:2-5 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality [Gk: porneia, “sex outside of marriage”]; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God...
· Putting it together: Our sexuality is as much about holiness as is not stealing and not murdering.
Like it or not, Christianity’s sexual standards are a part of our faith, and can’t be ignored unless you want ignore Jesus.
the sexual revolution
Notice what Paul says: We are not to live as the heathen, who are controlled by their body, rather we are control our bodies. Is this was Hutchins and others mean by sexual repression, being in control? Yep.
· Since the “Sexual Revolution,” it’s not control, instead it’s expression instead of – consenting adults is the new rule.
Like all cultural phenomena, the sexual revolution was an overreaction to some genuine problems. Very early in church history, Christians got squeamish about sex, but that didn’t come from the Bible, which is positive about sex.
· It was driven by a pagan dualistic philosophy.
Have many Christians been afraid of sex? Absolutely! I’m glad to live in an age when pastors are able to open preach on sex as God’s gift.
· But I fear that the cure was far worse than the disease.
Maybe we were repressed, maybe the church sometimes used sex to control people, but look at our current mess: STD’s rampant, teenage pregnancy (not to mention depression), more rape, more pedophilia, and the highest divorce rate in history.
· Is this really progress?!?
Back to the purpose
The goal is not to go back to viewing sex as an inherently bad thing, but to find balance and go back to God’s purpose.
Let’s think about...keys. A house key for instance. There are a lot of places you can stick a key. You can stick it in a light socket, in your nose, in your mouth, as a nail. But all of these fall short of its purpose: To open your house.
Q What is God’s primary and highest purpose for sex?
Procreation, right? Wrong! I know this is what most people say, but I don’t think that the primary purpose .
Q Ask a different way: How is human sexuality different than animal sexuality? Between us doing it and our dog doing it?
Many in our culture (esp. evolutionary philosophy) say sex just animal instinct (“You and me ain’t nothing but mammals, so let’s do it like they do it on the Discovery Channel.”)
· Procreation? It’s important, and it is vital that children be brought into a healthy family, but that’s how they have kids.
And if it’s just for having kids, and now that 1) have enough kids and 2) have figured out how to “do it” without kids, we can do whatever, whenever, wherever, and with whoever we want!
· Sexual pleasure? No, why else does my neighbor’s dog have a go at the couch?
Q Again, what is God’s primacy purpose for sex?
We have to go back to the beginning:
Genesis 2:18, 23-25 18 ¶ The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”... 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’, for she was taken out of man.” 24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. 25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Q What do you think happened next?
The Bible tactfully skips ahead (and maybe I should), but I know they didn’t go and pick fruit, at least not literally. To put is Biblically, the two started becoming one.
· This is the Bible’s first sex scene!
Q And are kids mentioned anywhere in this passage? No!
Q What is the context? “It is not good for man to be alone.”
A bonding experience
Q So what is God’s highest purpose for sex?
Intimacy! Sex is about intimacy – knowing another person at the deepest level possible. Yes it’s fun (that’s how God tricks us into having kids), but it is first about intimacy.
· God designed sex to make us into “one flesh” physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
For instance, did you know that physiologically, God has wired our bodies so that sex creates a deep bond? Hormones are released that create a deep sense of connection.
All of [these hormones] result in actual physical changes in the brain. When these hormones flow and send their impulses, they dramatically affect connections or synapses between the neurons in the brain. Those synapses actually are strengthened when we repeat a behavior or they are weakened when we stop.
So, when you repeatedly attach and unattach with multiple sexual partners you actually weaken the ability to stay connected. Studies have shown that when people have had multiple sexual partners before marriage they are more likely to divorce because they actually weaken the pathways that are necessary to attach at the deep and necessary emotional level important for marriage. (Dr. Joe McIlhaney and Dr. Freda McKissic Bush, “Hooked: The Bonding Power of Sex” on www.FamilyLife.com)
The reason why sex is only supposed to happen in marriage is because you are only meant have this bond with one person, and each additional person you sleep with weakens the intimacy that is meant for marriage.
Have More sex!
Obviously, the point of the sermon isn’t “don’t have sex,” it’s “have more sex.” God doesn’t tolerate sex, he commands it:
1 Corinthians 7:3-5 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
And all the brothers said “Amen!” God has given us this vital component of improving intimacy in marriage, and it is way more fun than the usual marriage exercises! (Conflict resolution exercise or sex?)
· But before you guys start elbowing your wife, understand that this is a two-way street.
Men and women are different, a lot different. These differences find their height in the bedroom: A man can leave for work before his wife wakes up, not talk to her all day, get home late, see his wife undressing, and be ready to go.
But let’s say that he forgot to take the trash out that morning, so she has to do, but it got knocked over, she had to clean it up, which made her late, so she was late for work and got written up, which had her in tears all day.
Q How frisky will she feel?
Q What is the most erotic thing he could have done?
Here’s the irony: In sex, we become “one flesh,” yet sex is where we are the most different. Either God was asleep at the wheel, or he is a genius. I say it is the latter.
It is through the hard work of mutually fulfilling and serving each other that the greatest intimacy comes. Our differences make sex both harder and more rewarding.
· At its highest, sex is a husband and wife serving each other.
Nothing good comes easy, so it’s no surprise this can be so hard, especially be sex opens us at the deepest level and can hurt us at the deepest level.
There is far more that can be said about this, and I hope that this inspires conversations between you and your wife (and maybe counseling), but to speak very broadly:
We men frequently need to focus on making sure sex doesn’t start in the bedroom (I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t say I fail here too), both by 1) serving her needs and 2) demonstrating that you still find her the object of your desire.
· We serve our wives as Jesus served us.
Women frequently need to focus on 1) letting go of expectation and seeing the good in their husband, and 2) making sex a priority. Having sex is how you show your husband that you find him desirable and value him.
· Remember that not only does intimacy lead to sex, but sex lead to intimacy.
The ironic thing is that intimacy and sex can lead to kids, which leads to less intimacy and sex.
· On our anniversary when Sarah was just 2, we watch Shrek 3...
Repressed of just plain smart?
Now back to the charge the Christians are repressed and our sexual ethics are one of the great evils of the church:
Q Pop quiz: What is God’s highest purpose for sex?
God has given us this key that opens the deepest possible human relationship. Now, if we go ramming it in any hole we can find, misusing it, destroying it, is it any surprise that once we find the correct keyhole, it doesn’t work that well anymore?
· Sexual sins are that which hurts us, hurt others and hurts our relationship with God.
If and when the church modifies it sexual ethics, because we don’t’ want to be obsolete or repressed, we are being unloving.
The goal of these commands is love (which is always the case). Here is the short version of God’s commands:
· Sex between one woman and one man untied in marriage: Good.
· Everything else: Bad.
Here is how Paul puts it:
1 Corinthians 6:18-20 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
If you are having sex outside of marriage, and you are not a Christian, all I can say to you is “you are hurting yourself and through misuse trivializing sex.”
But if you are a Christian, the charge of dishonoring God should be a much devastating offence to the believer. Here are “The Big four”, sexual sins God wants to protect us from:
1. Homosexual Sex
This one makes us the most unpopular, and it is only going to get worse: In Scotland, an American pastor was recently arrested and fined $1,500 for saying homosexuality is a sin.
· The world hears this and thinks that we are a bunch of homophobic, gay-haters.
Sadly, some of us are (especially the “God hates fags” kooks). But that is not a Biblical attitude; this is what we should be communicating:
Homosexual sex falls short of God’s purpose for sex (think back to gender differences). God forbids it because is it damaging, just like adultery. To pretend otherwise is unloving.
Q Does that mean you’ll go to hell if you are gay?
No, no one is going to hell for being gay, nor for having gay sex, anymore that people go to hell for having premarital sex. People go to hell because the reject God.
· Also: the sin isn’t being gay; it’s the action sex itself.
While jury is still out on all the different causes, it is always a result of living in a fallen world, never God’s intended design.
· Celibacy is the only godly option, and the Bible says that celibate men and women can serve mightily.
One of my favorite authors, Henri Nouwen, was gay, but lived a celibate life and has been a great blessing to many, even through his suffering.
2. Premarital Sex
God’s choices: Marriage or celibacy. That’s it, no option “C.” Why?
1. God said so: If you want holiness, “not sin” instead of “not sin much,” you wait. If in any area of your life you tell God, “Do Not Enter,” he is not truly God.
2. It destroys future relationships: Every sexual encounter you have further affects your ability to be intimate once you are married.
3. It clouds your judgment about your current relationship: That stuff about physiological bonding is great if it’s your spouse, but not if it’s a guy you met at the bar.
Q What about if you are engaged?
People say “it’s just a piece a paper.” Bull – if it were just a piece of paper, you would have gotten it.
The question is not do we have to have a piece of paper or ceremony to have sex, but are going to wait until you have publically given your heart before you give your body.
· As a wedding pastor, I’ve watched sex before marriage affect relationship, especially with God – it’s choosing to sin.
Cohabitating: All of this is even truer of living tighter: You are dishonoring God and damaging your relationship. Statistics show that cohabitating increases the chances of divorce.
3. Extramarital Sex
I don’t need to argue for how important martial faithfulness. No one here is stupid enough to advocate “open marriages.”
· No one in this room is planning on having an affair, but everyone in this room is capable of it.
So my focus here is how to prevent it. Proverbs has a lot to say about the topic, including (conveniently) this week’s reading:
Proverbs 5:1-4 My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight, 2 that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge. 3 For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; 4 but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword.
Q What’s the connection between wisdom and the adulteress?
Here’s the connection: You need to be thoroughly prepared prior to temptation, because in the moment, sin does “drip honey.” Unless you have already immersed yourself in the wisdom’s cause and effect, you will be easy prey.
· Affairs never start in the hotel room, they start long before.
Affairs start when you allow your mind to wander, when you share your marital problems with a female friend, when you focus on how unsatisfied you are.
· You can justify it at the time, but later it’s bitter as gall.
· Adultery is like murder in this – it cannot be undone.
Protect yourself by making sure you our pouring yourself into your marriage, by maintaining accountability with same gender friends, and keeping yourself far from danger.
Porn is big business, bringing in $12 billion in US, more than professional sports – it’s our national past time.
· 40% internet users view porn, 12% of sites and 25 % of search engine requests are porn.
Porn is not just a guy problem. 1 out of 3 visitors to adult website are women. Granted, approach it very differently – not images as much as chat rooms, but they are more likely to act out their thoughts.
· 47% of Christians say porn has caused major problems.
What does all this mean? It means that several people in this room struggle with porn. Worse yet, some of you are not struggling, you are indulging.
Let me put it is the clearest terms possible: Pornography is a sin that will destroy you and your marriage (even if you are not married yet). It has already done so to millions.
We’re filling our mind with sinful images and ideas that our destructive to our relationships by creating unreasonable expectations and false ideals. It’s asking for an affair.
· I want to see our men getting men’s groups, such as “Every Man’s Battle” started.
Two good resources: pureonline.com and XXXChurch.com (free accountability software that I use). #1 consumer: boys 12-17 – you may be too late.
Final thought here: To put it bluntly, the sweetest hiney is the one you can rightfully grab, so stop looking at any other ones!
· Like trying to get full by looking at grocery flyers.
High view of sex
Christianity isn’t repressed, nor do we have low view of sex, we have higher view: It means more to us, not less. We know that sex as intimacy, not recreation.
I get worked up about this because I have watch sex go from one of God’s greatest gifts to object of great pain. It’s one of the benefits of being a pastor – you have a bird’s eye view of many, many train wrecks.
· I am convinced that our culture has sold us a bill of goods.
I want to save all of us from that pain. I want this church to be filled with celibate singles waiting for God’s best, not misusing his gift, and with married couples who are sexually fulfilled because they are serving each other.
· But there is also grace and help for those who have failed.
Main Point(s) of sermon:
· The highest purpose of sex is intimacy and it is defrauded in any context other than marriage.