May – June 2003
We are talking about sex this morning. This is your final warning. If you have little kids and you are not ready for “the talk,” you can leave now. If not, you will have a very fun lunch.
A while back, I was asked to be a part of a secular television talk show. I’d been on this show many times before, and I was on there with an interesting panel of folks. There were two comedians—one from Houston and one from New York—and also there was a local radio personality, along with a sex therapist. Somehow we…the subject, I don’t think, that day was actually on sex, but as these shows go you tend to somehow gravitate to sex. And so, the conversation started up here, but it gradually degenerated into basically locker room talk about sex and cosmopolitan talk from a woman’s perspective, as each gender was taking jabs at the other about sex and sexual intercourse.
And it was getting a little bit out of hand, you might say, and in the middle of this kind of debate, I just kind of piped in and said: “Hey, guys, wait a minute, wait a minute, time out. I want to ask all you guys a question.” And I said, “What is the purpose of sex?” (Long pause) And the set was just like that. I mean, they had been talking about all this sexual stuff and performance and turning him on and turning her on, and all of a sudden: “What’s the purpose of sex?” There was silence.
And I think it’s interesting in our culture today, we talk a lot about sex. You can’t avoid sexual images wherever you go in our culture. And yet though we talk about it a lot, we still know very little about the nature and purpose of sex. So this morning we are going to talk about “Sex Matters” as we continue our series called Marriage Map: The road to happily ever after. Maybe you’re single and someday you desire to have a great healthy marriage. Perhaps you’re married, and you want to improve your marriage. This series is designed to help you in that process.
The first Sunday together, we saw that marriage is basically a life-long commitment. Yes guys, commitment; that’s with one “t.” It’s a life-long commitment to unconditionally love an imperfect person. That’s what marriage is all about. It’s all about God using marriage to make you holy, to make you sacrificial, to make you more like His son Jesus Christ. Last week we talked about what you need to do if your marriage is in trouble. What do you do if your marriage is in the ditch? We said you’ve got to do whatever it takes to work it out. Basically, stay the faithful to your vows and get radical and get some help and get praying.
Today we’re going to talk about sex. Now, let me say this right off the bat because I think that many times the church and, in particular, God gets a bad rap when we talk about sex. Point number one, if you’re taking notes: God loves sex. Now, that may be a surprise to some of you. And many of you may say, “When I go home today, I’m going to send him a letter. I can’t believe he used ‘God’ and ‘sex’ in the same sentence.” Listen, God loves sex. God made you; God made me. He made us sexual beings. God designed sexual intercourse for a purpose. God loves sex. God knows sex. God knows more about sex than any sexual therapists. He knows more about sex than Dr. Ruth, than Howard Stern, than Hugh Hefner. God invented sex. He is the Designer. He is the Architect.
Let me give a little quiz to kind of see where you are—a little self-test, as far as your attitude towards sex. God creates Adam and Eve and places them in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve never have to go shopping. I know for some of you that may be a drag. For others, you rejoice in that—never, never, have to go shopping. They are naked, the Bible says, and unashamed. There is nakedness, and there is no shame. Let’s just say that Adam and Eve, they got tired of eating, they got tired of naming the animals, they are worn out, stressed out, so they go down to the beach. They are down on the beach, and they are sitting there, soaking up the rays. The rays haven’t eaten up the ozone layer yet; they don’t need the SPF 15, and they are enjoying themselves. They go swimming in the water. It is just pristine. No pollution—there has been no fall yet. And all of a sudden they get out of the water. They’re having a great time. They start kissing, and then right there on the beach they begin making love. Right there on the beach, in nature.
Now, as God leans over the balcony of heaven and sees Adam and Eve buck naked making love on the beach, what expression do you think is on God’s face? You think God is going, “Oh, Yuck! Gross…sex!”? No, God’s not saying that. God’s not thinking that. God’s saying, “This is beautiful. This is what I designed Adam and Eve for in the context of their marriage—to become one with one another.” So God is pro-sex. God loves sex. He designed sex.
Now, let’s see what else God tells us about the purpose of sex. If you have your Bibles, you can turn to 1 Corinthians Chapter 6, Verse 15. In the NIV version, it uses the word “prostitute.” Don’t be confused there. Just take that word and scratch through it, and you can put girlfriend or boyfriend. “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ Himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with…” your “boyfriend”/your “girlfriend?” (In this case it says “a prostitute?”) “Never. Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.’”
What is the purpose of sex? First of all, we see it there at the end of Verse 16. Sex is for unity. Sex is for unity. The two will become what? “One flesh.” One spiritually. One physically. One emotionally. One economically. There is something intrinsically unifying about this sex act. A while back I saw an old Seinfeld re-run where Jerry and Elaine are debating how they can have sex and still maintain their friendship without really going out. It’s a funny show, and Jerry is talking. He says, “You know, this,” talking about their friendship, “is good.” And Elaine says, “Well, that,” pointing to the bedroom, “is good too.” And Jerry says, “Well, how can we have that and still have this, because this is good?” And she goes, “That’s good too.” And as I watched that show, I thought, “This is so hilarious.” Here is someone as cynical and probably as agnostic as Jerry Seinfeld, but he can’t escape the 1 Corinthians 6 reality, that sex is something more than physical bodies coming together and sharing different fluids. He can’t escape it.
There is something intrinsically unifying about the sex act. So sex within the context of marriage is for the purpose of oneness. The two will become one flesh. It involves two people in a life union. It is a physical act with deep social, emotional, psychological implications. What is the purpose of sex? Sex is for unity.
The second purpose of sex, we can see in Genesis Chapter 1, Verse 27. It says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” So our sexuality—we don’t have time to go there this morning—but our sexuality, our gender, our maleness, our femaleness, both from a physical standpoint and an emotional personality standpoint, is the reflection of the very nature of who God is.
Sex always starts in heaven. Our understanding of sexuality always starts with God. He is the Definer. He is the Starting Point. Verse 28, here is the second purpose of sex, “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” The second purpose of sex is this: Sex is for procreation. God said what? Be fruitful and multiply. Be fruitful and subdue the earth. And we saw last week in our time of baby dedication that many of you are obeying this purpose of sex. You are producing children and fruit. You are multiplying. It’s amazing, isn’t it, when you think about it—that God uses this mysterious, passionate relationship (this sex act) to bring you and to bring me into the world?! It’s amazing—God’s creativity and God’s love for us. He uses sexual intercourse. He uses love-making to bring us life. That’s wild.
The third purpose of sex is found in Proverbs Chapter 5 and Song of Solomon Chapter 4. Proverbs Chapter 5, Verse 18 says, “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breast satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.”
The Bible is much more sexually explicit than most of us are. Many of us have adopted this platonic view of sex or this Augustinian view of sex that sees it as bad, as dirty. The Bible doesn’t talk about sex in that way. Song of Solomon Chapter 4, Verse 11 says this: “Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride; milk and honey are under your tongue. The fragrance of your garments is like that of Lebanon. You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.”
The third purpose of sex is this: Sex is for pleasure. God did not have to design it that way. Did you ever think about it? God didn’t have to design sex to be pleasurable in nature. He could have made sex like going to the dentist and getting a root canal, which I’ve had one of those before, and it’s not very fun; I don’t recommend it. But He made sex to be a pleasurable experience. And we don’t have to run from that. And we can celebrate that and celebrate the pleasurable gift that love making, that sex is to us.
The fourth purpose of sex. Sex is for unity. Sex is for procreation. Sex is for pleasure. And, finally, we’ll go back to Ephesians Chapter 5 from last week, Verse 31: “’For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” The fourth purpose of sex is that sex is for marriage. Sex is for marriage alone. That’s what the Bible says there. For what reason? For the reason of entering into marriage. That’s why you leave and you cleave to your wife, to your husband, and become one flesh.
It is interesting as you look at the major world religions, not that we need their verification by any means. But if you look at Judaism, you look Islam, you look Hinduism, and Buddhism…you see that we disagree on many things. But all four of those world religions teach that sex should be reserved for the context for marriage. Interesting. One pastor put it this way. He compares sex to fire, and having fire in the context of having a fireplace. Fire is a great thing, isn’t it? Fire can keep you warm. Fire can help you make s’mores; I mean, fire can do a lot when it’s in the context of the fireplace. But if you get a spark out into your living room or into your TV room in your apartment, that spark or flame can burn up the carpet, burn up a chair. It can burn up your whole house or apartment. Sex is the same way.
God is the Designer of sex. God says, “Save sex for the safe context marriage. Keep it in the fireplace.” Any time you take it out of the fireplace, it can burn your life, and it can burn your relationships. That is simply the way God has designed it. God has designed sex so that when you give your whole body to someone, you’re also supposed to give your whole life to them as well. So when you take sex outside of its proper context, you violate the inner reality of the act. Because sex is a life-uniting act, it must be coupled with a life-uniting commitment called marriage. That’s why when you dabble sexually outside of marriage, and you’re engaging in premarital sex or other kind of sexual activity, there will always be guilt; there will always be shame; there will always be negative consequences for taking sex out of its proper context. You say, “I don’t believe that. I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe what the Bible says about sex anymore; it’s just old and outdated.” It doesn’t matter whether you believe it or not.
After the service today I may climb to the top of the dome here and jump off and say, “I don’t believe in the law of gravity!” Boom! I am going to smack on the brick out there. God designed this world. He designed it with certain physical and spiritual laws, and if you disobey God’s laws, negative consequences will kick in. It doesn’t matter. God does that for a reason. That’s why you have so much shame. That’s why you have doubt. That’s why you have miscommunication when you’re sexually active outside the marriage context. So sex is for marriage.
Now, maybe you’re saying, “I got that. I understand that fire goes in the fireplace. Ben, I am married, and the fire in the fireplace is beginning to dwindle a little bit. I want to know how I can have a good sex life in my marriage. How do I keep the fire burning?” All right, couple of things here. Let’s look at them.
Number one: If you want to have great sex in your marriage, if you want to reignite those fires, remember, the matches are in the kitchen. All right? The matches are in the kitchen. To put it another way, great sex in marriage is based on nonsexual things. Great sex in marriage is based on nonsexual things. So it’s all the stuff you do outside the bedroom that counts. I mean, having great sex is not so much the goal as it is building a foundation and building intimacy that is necessary to provide a healthy sexual relationship in marriage.
So how do you do that? Well, you have to take the time to build that intimacy. Intimacy is built through talking. Intimacy is built through really listening. Intimacy is built through empathizing with your mate. Intimacy is built through learning how to resolve conflict in a healthy manner. As a matter of fact, the number one indicator that your marriage is going to work or not will be based upon whether or not you learn how to resolve conflict. But all of these are things that you do in the kitchen, if you would, things that you do outside the bedroom that provide an environment for a healthy sexual relationship. So remember, the matches are in the kitchen.
Second, to keep the fire burning in the fireplace, you need to learn to strike the flame of affection. This is particularly to guys because, guys, we have to confess: we are a little slow. We don’t get it. We see things pretty one-dimensional. Okay, two-dimensional, work and sports, okay. And so we can’t think out of those dimensions. We need to learn how to express affection to our mates outside of the bedroom. We need to learn the importance of hugging, the importance of kissing, the importance of holding hands. We need to learn how to build our mate up and encourage them, to compliment them on their work or on their looks or on the way they have been sacrificing in their giving or whatever.
Again, that’s more stuff outside of the bedroom, more stuff in the kitchen. But all of that provides an atmosphere where the fire will continue to burn and provides a foundation for healthy sex inside of marriage. So remember, number one: the matches are in the kitchen; number two: strike the flame of affection.
And number three (you’re going to like this): Always light the fire. Look at 1 Corinthians Chapter 7, Verse 3: “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.” It’s talking about sexual intimacy. “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.” Verse 5—you gotta like verse 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.”
This passage tells us clearly that when you get married and you become one, your body is not your own—your body is your wife’s and vice versa. And you should not go long periods of time in your relationship unless there are physical reasons where you refrain from the act of marriage—love making. Why? Because what happens if you do that, you can start experiencing marital drift. You begin drifting from your mate. And if there is a problem in the bedroom, usually, not always, that means there is a problem somewhere else. There is a problem with intimacy. There is a problem with communication—something else is going on inside that marriage.
I read a great story this week about a couple named Rick and Jennifer. And they talked very candidly about their sexual history in marriage. They have been married many years. And they said that the first three years of their marriage, sex was great. It was satisfying for Rick. It was satisfying for Jennifer. And things were going fantastic, and Rick said, “I must be the luckiest husband in all the world.” Until…the baby. Then this beautiful, pudgy bundle of joy burst into their lives, and all of a sudden everything changed for this couple. And Rick would want to make love with his wife, and Jennifer said, “No, I don’t want to do it.” And then Rick accused Jennifer of rejecting him, and Jennifer thought: “Don’t you understand? I‘m tired, I’m worn out, I don’t have any energy left.”
And so as time progressed, and they began to kind of drift apart, they realized, “We have to do something to re-ignite the fire of sex in our marriage.” So here is what they said they did. Number one: They talked about their “sexpectations.” In other words, they talked about their expectations of what their sex life was to be like in marriage. They tried to get on the same page. They tried to make concessions and compromise to get each other’s perspective on what they thought sex should be like. They talked very openly and candidly about that. Second of all: They scheduled appointments for lovemaking. Now, some of you may say: “Well, that doesn’t sound like very much fun; that’s kind of clinical, isn’t it? I mean, what about the spontaneity?” Listen, when you have the stress of work and you have the stress of one kid, two kids, three kids, and (some of you whom I respect greatly) four kids, and more…when you have those stressors in your life, you’d better be proactive and be thinking and conscientious about scheduling times of lovemaking with your spouse.
And so when this couple did this, they began to look forward to these appointments. They looked forward to these times together. And it brought great joy and intimacy and passion back into their marriage. Third thing they did—this is very practical—is that they bought a sturdy lock for their bedroom. I don’t think I need to explain that one. Number four: They read some really good Christian books on the joy of sex. And in our bookstore, we have great resources that talk about the celebration of sex within the context of marriage.
These four things really helped re-ignite the fires of love and lovemaking in the marriage of this couple. And I believe that if you do those things, the same thing will happen in your life and in your marriage.
What is the purpose of sex? Sex is by design. It’s God’s design for unity. It’s God’s design for procreation. It’s God’s design specifically for marriage. And it’s God’s design for pleasure. And ultimately—this is where it gets great and really mysterious, and we’ll end here—sex, even great sex in marriage is merely a shadow or a sign that points us to God. The intimacy, the oneness that we experience as man and wife…it’s an incredible physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual act. This is a signpost. This is a shadow, an appetizer, that points us to the intimacy and the oneness that we’ll experience when we get to heaven and we worship Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. What a wonderful, mysterious, powerful, passionate gift God has given us through sex. And sex, both our gender and the act of lovemaking, ultimately is a signpost that points us to the very nature and character of God. And that is why sex matters.
[Ben leads in a closing prayer.]