SEX: GOD’S DESIGN, OUR DELIMMA
Lies You Believe About Sex
How many of you, have ever read a book by the famous Oxford professor, C.S. Lewis? Mere Christianity, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce. Lewis is undoubtedly the most prolific Christian author of the 20th century. He had great insight into people and great insight into the word of God.
He gave an analogy years ago on his BBC broadcast back in the 1940s that went something like this: Imagine if you could transport yourself to another country and observe what was happening among the younger men and older men. Imagine if you went to this country, and when the young men graduated from high school and went off to college, they would go out and buy these life-sized, full-colored, beautiful, glossy posters. They would go out and buy these posters, take them to the dorm room, and they would put these gigantic posters up on their wall, these posters of food.
I mean, one guy in his dorm room had a poster of this hamburger. Oh, it was incredible! It was just so juicy, and the lettuce and tomatoes and the onions, and all the guys would look at it and go, “Wow! Did you see that beef patty? It’s incredible!” And then you go to the next room and someone would have this ice-cream sundae with bananas, caramel, and chocolate, fudge with a cherry on top, and they’d go, “Wow! Did you see the other guy’s dorm room? Did you see that banana split? Is that incredible?” And as you looked at these college guys you wondered, “What is going on? What’s their deal with food?”
Then you discover that on the weekends some of the guys would get into a car and they’d drive to a certain part of the town, and they’d go to this particular club. Then they would lay down a lot of money to get into this club. When we walked into the club with them, it was a dimly lit room, smoke filled the air, and then you notice that there was something on stage. And this something on stage was covered by this red piece of silk. A spotlight was shining down on this covered object, and then about that time you could hear this music going. As the music started playing, the cover of this object was slowly being pulled off. All of the men—there were young men, college men, old men, single men, married men—were watching this cover being taken off. They were going: “Whew! Wow, this is great!” The music continued to bump and grind and bump and grind, and as the cover was pulled off this object, you saw that underneath this red silk covering was a roast turkey. Oh, oh, oh! Oh man, they were going crazy over this roast turkey.
Then the next night the same men would go back to the same club and lay down more money, and they would pull off the cover of a lobster! The next night it would be a T-bone steak, and they would go, “Whoa!” and holler and talk about how great and wonderful this was.
Now, if you observed this in this foreign country, what would you think about these people’s views and attitudes towards food? What would you think about their appetite? What conclusions would you draw from your experience watching them ooh and aah over the posters on the wall in the dorm room and then go out to this club and watch people pull off a covering of a roast turkey or lobster? What would you think?
Well, I mean one conclusion you might draw is that these people must be starved. They must be really hungry because they’re into food so much. But then you look around at the people there, and you notice that no, they’re not starving. These guys, these men are well fed.
As a matter of fact, there is a famous doctor that went around years ago in this country. His name was Dr. Sigmund Freud-burger, or something like that, and he said, “The problem with this country is that they have repressed their appetite. They have all this appetite, all this desire for all this delicious food, and they’ve just repressed their appetite for food. Now they just need to eat and indulge themselves.” For many, many years, these people are going crazy eating food, watching food, looking at food, ogling at food, and lusting about food. So, they’re not starving.
Now, what’s the real conclusion you would draw from visiting this strange foreign country? I think it would be what Lewis said, that these people have a distorted appetite for food. Right? They have a distorted appetite for food. But you know what? We act the same way about sex in our culture. The point that Lewis was making in his analogy was… How in the world can you equate your desire for hunger with your appetite for sex, if you simply look at it objectively? How can you do that? But what this analogy really tells us is that there is something distorted, something tweaked about our view towards sex and sexuality.
Why is it twisted? Why is it distorted? A couple of reasons. First of all, things ain’t the way they’re supposed to be. Right? We live in a fallen world; we have received the guilt, the blame, the condemnation—all the fallen-ness that happened in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. We have received all of that, so our bent towards many things that are beautiful and glorious, for many of us, has become very twisted and tainted. We listen to the lies of the Devil. We listen to the lies of Satan and what he tells us, especially in the intimate area of sex and sexuality.
Last week we began a series on the subject of sex: God’s delight and our Dilemma, and we saw that sex is first and primarily spiritual and that sex starts with God. Sex is a reflection of the character of God. God made us sexual beings in His image—male and female. Our maleness, our femaleness expresses visibly and spiritually the image of God. Also, we saw that sex in the proper context is not something gross, is not something shameful; sex in the proper context of marriage is something glorious. It’s something that should be celebrated. As you look in the Bible at Proverbs chapter 5 and Song of Solomon, we see the Bible talks graphically about sex, doesn’t it? Sure does.
In this message we’re going to look at a few lies that we believe about sex. There are many, many lies. I’m really going to cover two lies that we believe about sex because remember, sex is first and foremost what? Between the ears before it’s ever between the legs. We need to think in a God-centered way about sex and sexuality, in a Christ-centered way about our sex drives and urges and about sexual intercourse itself. The problem is this: We have believed the lies of Satan between the ears, and these lies have affected the way we feel about what’s between our legs and what we do with our sexual parts. We have a distorted and a twisted and a tainted view of sex and sexuality. There is probably not a person in here that has not had some experience in that arena that brought a sense of shame and a sense of guilt. Some of it is real guilt and real shame, and some of it is false shame and false guilt—something that was placed upon you that you did not want.
Turn with me in the Bible to the book of I Thessalonians chapter 4. I receive a lot of questions as a pastor. One of the top questions I get is, “What’s God’s will for my life? What’s God’s plan?” Look at verse 3 in I Thessalonians Chapter 4: “It is God’s will [here it is—God’s will for your life and God’s will for my life] that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 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.” He then he goes on to explain how God will judge sexual sin.
Paul says this: It’s God’s will that you and I be sanctified, set apart. It’s God’s will that we have a different attitude towards life, and especially a different attitude towards sex and towards sexuality. Paul had to combat two different views during the time of the New Testament. One view that he was combating concerning sex was the platonic view. The platonic view is something that many of us have inherited in the evangelical culture, and that is that the body is bad and evil, and the spirit is good. Platonists draw a false dichotomy between creation and matter, and the spiritual world. I could do a whole series of Platonism in the church—that’s something we really are whacked out about right now. But I’m not going to go there.
Sexually speaking, a Platonist would say, the body’s bad. So if I engage the body in sexual intercourse then that is somehow a tainted act. The other view that Paul was trying to combat when he wrote the letter to the Thessalonians and when he wrote the letter to the Corinthians was that of the mystery religions. In the mystery religions, they had a saying that went something like this,”If you’re hungry, then you should eat. If you are sexy, or turned on, then you should sex it up—you should have sex. Express yourself sexually—whether it is with someone of the opposite sex or it is with someone of the same sex.” It’s really humorous to me—we’re such chronological snobs, and we think that we live in a sexually liberated society, right?
Whenever I say, “Here’s God’s design for sex. Here’s God’s sex ethic for those who are high school students, those who are singles: Sex is for marriage.” Now most people think, “Man, this guy! You’re just so repressed, I just feel so sorry for you. Where did you come up with that archaic view? Don’t you realize we have been sexually liberated? Don’t you realize times have changed? Don’t you realize that, that view of sex and purity is antiquated, it’s out of date, and it’s out of step?” The Christian view on sex has always been out of date, it’s always been out of step; the Romans and the Greeks—they were much more sexually liberated than we are when Paul wrote these letters. So what do you say to them back in Thessalonians and in Corinthians? His sex ethic is much more radical than what I’m talking about tonight. Why?
Well, the Romans had an interesting view of sex. A Roman guy would have, first of all, a wife, and his wife’s purpose was primarily to maintain his status in society, and he hoped that she had a lot of cash. He would also have a second woman, which was his intellectual companion or playmate, whom he would have sex with occasionally when he wanted to. Then he had a woman in his life (this was all accepted by the society). This third woman that a Roman guy would have would be his concubine—basically his sex slave. Sex on demand.
Paul was writing to people who had been engaging in this sex ethic for many, many, many, many years. I mean, it was basically a sexual free for all. Then the people in Corinth, they would go to church, or a worship center like this, and a part of the religion was to go up and have sex with various people because if you had sex with them that would somehow help the gods bless your crops or bless your business transactions. That’s what was happening in Corinth. Imagine Paul walking in there and saying, “All right, you Corinthians…all right, you Thessalonians, I know you’ve been sexing it up; I know you’ve abused your sex drive for many, many years. You have three women! I’m telling you, sex is for marriage with one person and one person alone.” It’s radical.
Many people today say, “Well, that just not going to jive. That’s that typical Christian uptight sex ethic. Survey says: Wrong. Roman Catholicism, Protestant Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism all agree on this issue. We just need to listen to the perennial wisdom of the religions of the world—on this issue we do. All those major religions agree that sex is reserved for the context of marriage. So if you’re out there today, and you’re thinking, “Well, you know, that’s just archaic, it doesn’t apply, the Bible’s not relevant,” the Bible’s more than relevant. If you’re going to argue against the collective wisdom of the religions of the world, more power to you there, friend.
Think about what happened in the Roman Empire. The Romans were amazed at the Christians’ attitude towards sex, towards money, and towards death. Because Christians had such a radical attitude towards those three areas, Christianity eventually won the day. Christianity eventually swept through the entire Roman Empire, and they carried their sexual ethic of purity and wholeness along with them.
Why does Paul say that we should avoid sexual immorality, and what is meant by that term? Well here, the view that he is coming against is the mystery religion view. It’s the view that C. S. Lewis was critiquing in that analogy, which says that sex is a biological need. “How can you dare tell these high school students and singles not to have sex? It’s a biological need.” And if you believe that, and if you have bought that lie of Satan, which is being parroted through the media and through educators, then you know what you are? You are simply an animal. You’re like your dog or your cat when it gets in heat. That’s what you are. At best, you’re a naked ape—on a good day. I don’t know about you, but that offends me. We’re not that way. Now, I’m not trying to diminish the fact that we have sexual urges and sexual desires as singles and as married couples. I’m not saying that. But I am saying that sex is not a biological need—the whole analogy between food and sex proves that.
The sexual liberation, and because we have bought that first lie that sex is a biological need, has ravished our country. Instead of sexually liberating us, it has put us in chains. It’s put us in shackles, especially women. Women, you lost out in the 60’s! You have lost out. I mean, the women’s liberation movement, though they’ve accomplished many positive things, in many ways they have simply turned back the clock to the time of the Roman Empire, the time of the Greeks. When the Christian sex ethic, the Judeo-Christian sex ethic was the norm in our country and England, women had the power. Now in the United States (in the western culture), because you’ve abdicated the power, you’ve lost it.
You say, “Ben, what are you talking about? I’m just like men now. I can have sex when I want, with whom I want, and no one cares—no strings attached.” That’s not true. Sex used to be reserved for the context of marriage—those were the cultural mores. They’ve changed, and now you’re not protected. Now men can have sex with anyone, any woman; their pool of women they can have sex with has increased a million fold. And they can have what men want; so many men want sex without commitment—having their cake and eating it too. You have to pay the price in your bodies. Whether you’re Pro-Choice or Pro-Life, through abortion that hurts your body physically (much less emotionally, psychologically, spiritually), or you have to pay the price many times through bearing a kid out of wedlock. You’re paying the price. You’ve lost your power because you’re selling yourself; you’re giving yourself cheaply to men over and over and over again. And so many of you who have experienced sex already outside of its context would say, “Yeah, that’s right. I really have.”
Sex is a biological need: that’s a lie. That’s not true. But our sexuality and our sex drive is so distorted because it’s so close to the center of who we are. Your sexuality defines you, and your sexuality reflects the character of God. So it’s an easy area, because of our fallen-ness and because of our bent to be selfish, for Satan to get in and to lie to us and to manipulate us.
I know there are a lot of women that were mad at me last week because I talked about how sex is commanded in marriage. And they’re saying, “Well, Ben, you just aren’t married to the guy I’m married to. This guy’s unbelievable; he’s unruly.” Many men have bought that lie as well. It’s in many so-called Christian books on psychology and sex—that your basic need, your greatest need, is for sex. It is indeed. God does command the woman to meet the needs of her husband sexually in marriage, as the husband is to meet the sexual needs of his wife. But it’s done in the context of respect and honor and caring.
Gentlemen, single and married, great sex in marriage is based on non-sexual things. Sex starts with, “Good morning, Honey!” Sex starts at breakfast. Sex starts with the way you treat her, the way you listen, the way you honor, the way you provide. So don’t go around demanding sex. “You must meet my needs. Submit to me, therefore, woman!” What are you doing? And, you know, you’ve got those guys who are single. You’re taught, “Well, if you’re really going to be a great lover someday, you’ve got to really practice. Practice sex. You’ve got to take the car on a test drive…” all that stuff.
Great sex in marriage is based upon non-sexual things. And so many, many men don’t want to do that. Why do you think pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry in our nation? It’s because many men, many married men, don’t want to work on the non-sexual aspects of their marriage. They don’t want to do what it takes to provide an atmosphere of intimacy. A lot of people are having affairs in record numbers. Why is Houston one of the men’s club capitals of this country? Why? It’s not really sex. It’s selfishness. It’s getting our needs met.
That’s the first lie—that sex is a biological need. The other lie is the lie of Platonism, which says that sex is dirty. We think sex is dirty. It amazed me last week, when I spoke on sex that some of you were offended by the message that I delivered. “Did you hear what Ben said? Penis…penetration…vagina…whoo!” And what amazes me is this incredible dichotomy that exists between every single day of your life—when you hear overt, crass, sexual messages—and someone says something like that in church, and, “Oh! Let’s get this guy out of here! He’s just too radical, what is he doing?” Sex is not a dirty word.
Imagine Adam and Eve, if you will. Adam and Eve are placed in this beautiful garden. Imagine you combined the Bahamas, Hawaii, Colorado, Switzerland—all the beauty in the entire world just combined in one place. That’s where Adam and Eve hung out. And they were naked, and they didn’t care. They didn’t have to go shopping; they didn’t have to look for sales. I mean, they were naked and unashamed.
Man, they would run together, they would play together. And imagine that they’re just running hand in hand. And then they run out in this beautiful field of golden wheat, and they just fall down in that field. And Eve is giggling, and Adam is laughing, and Adam just goes over and kisses Eve on her cheek, and she kisses Adam back. Pretty soon, they start kissing and making out, and the next thing you know, they’re sexually aroused. Then right there, in the middle of this beautiful, golden wheat field, with the mountains in the background, they have sexual intercourse right there. The sun is shining down, beating down on their naked bodies.
All of a sudden, God looks down over the balcony of heaven. As He sees Adam and Eve copulating right there, publicly, in this golden wheat field—naked with the sun beating down on their bodies—what expression do you think is on God’s face? I’m serious. What is God doing? “Eww…it’s gross!” You know what I think God is doing? I think God’s smiling. God is saying, “This is a gift I have given you. This is the day that I have made for you, Adam and Eve. Rejoice and be glad in it. Rejoice and enjoy your wife, Adam. Rejoice and enjoy your husband, Eve. This is a wonderful gift.”
Sex in the proper context, in the protected, secure context—the confines of marriage—is a glorious and beautiful thing. It’s not just glorious and beautiful because it’s pleasurable. That’s not the issue. Why? Because sex is ultimately a signpost that points us to God. Do you understand that? Sex is a signpost that points us to God. Everything on earth is analogous of something in heaven. That’s why our sexuality, our maleness and femaleness, is analogous to the image of God.
Sexual intercourse between a husband and a wife is really about, what? It’s about intimacy; it’s about oneness. As a man and a woman come together, as they submit their sexual parts to one another, as they become one, what they are doing is being a signpost. They are a visual aid. They are show-and-tell of what’s happening in the heavenly realm between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, because God is three yet God is one. Three persons in one essence. The essence of God is that He is one, that He is unified. If there is an eternal, spiritual, love process between God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, they live in a self-replenishing relationship. So our God is a triune God; He is a relational God. And sex—even the greatest sex on earth in the context of marriage—is simply a shadow. It’s simply a type of oneness and intimacy shared between God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
Sex is special. Sex is sacred. Do you see why sex is so sacred? It shadows, in a way, the Trinity. So if you are using sex outside of the context of marriage, it’s not just like you’re going, “Ooh! Whoopsie…I’m sorry. Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven. I’m sorry about that, God. I just broke one of Your laws.” What you’re doing, even though you probably don’t even realize it, is you’re committing the sin of blasphemy. You are spitting on the cross, on the very name and nature and character of God when you go abusing sex and using sex out of its context.
Sex is a signpost; it points us to God. Sex is also a foretaste of the beatific vision. Adam and Eve…let’s go back to the garden, in Genesis 2:25, I believe. The Bible says that they were naked and unashamed, right? They were naked and unashamed. And you have a sense of that within the context of marriage—with your spouse. There’s a sense that you can be naked with them. You can be vulnerable with them and not ashamed. See? But there’s always a sense of shame with our nakedness on earth, isn’t there? There’s always a sense of shame, even in marriage. I mean, your mom and dad, and you, don’t run around naked all the time, right? But we have this desire to be naked.
I think of the Alanis Morissette song, “I recommend walking around naked in your living room.” Her next video—she’s walking around some city naked. I mean, we have something that wants to go back there, that wants to go back to this innocence. That’s why we have Hippie Hollow in Austin and nudist camps. People are really trying to do the naked thing, but there’s something about us. We’re just a little bit shameful; we can’t go there.
We desire to be naked and unashamed. Sex and marriage gives us a foretaste of that. When you have those moments of vulnerability, of passion, of openness, and you experience that oneness in the sexual relationship of marriage, there’s a sense that at that time, at that moment, that you are totally vulnerable. You’re totally open to that person, and they’re totally vulnerable and totally open and totally transparent to you. It’s a shadow, a foretaste of the openness, of the vulnerability, of the transparency of the beatific vision. And that’s the goal of our life. That’s our focus—to see God.
Right now, we’ve never experienced the glory of God. “Wow, I really experienced the glory of God. I really experienced the presence of God at church.” No! Maybe about half of my pinky, okay? Or my fingernail…that’s how much of the glory or presence of God you’ve experienced on this planet. The beatific vision is when there are no clouds; there’s no veil. We see God for who He is, and He sees us for who we are, and we are naked before Him—not physically, but emotionally, spiritually, psychologically—and He knows us. In Jesus Christ, when we see God, He says, “I love you.”
When we stand there before God—when we die—we see His face. He sees us. We feel His warmth, His acceptance. We experience some type of mystical oneness with Him and oneness with all the people who have known and worshiped God. We behold His glory. Would that be fun?! Would that be incredible?! Sex is just a foretaste of that. It’s a shadow. It’s an analogy for the gospel. See, we can be unashamed before God right now, can’t we? How can we be unashamed? How can we cover the guilt and the shame and the nakedness that we feel? Jesus can cover us. Because when Christ covers us, He covers us with forgiveness, He covers us with acceptance, and He covers us with His righteousness. So we can get a taste right now—here and now on this earth—of what it’s going to be like someday to be fully loved and fully known by God. We get a taste of it here on earth, which is incredible.
Do you see it? Do you see that sex is bigger than just two people hooking up? Do you see the wholeness of sex, the sacredness of sex, the symbolic nature of this relationship? Do you see it? That’s why Paul says to the Corinthians, “Listen, you people. You’re having sex with people who are not your spouses. You’re going against reality; you can’t do that! You can’t separate your body and your soul.”
You young people, you can’t give yourself to someone sexually. You can’t say, “I want to be one with you sexually, but not one with you emotionally, not one with you economically, not one with you spiritually.” It’s a monstrosity! Sex outside of marriage is violent—you’re engaging in a life-uniting act without a life-uniting commitment. God’s not a cosmic killjoy. Paul’s not trying to rain on your parade. He wants you to be a true sexual hedonist. He wants you to experience real pleasure. He wants you to see and to experience what sex is like and that that’s what God has for you in marriage. But if you take it outside of marriage, you will ruin it, you will pervert it, and you will pay an incredible price.
Many of you here are running, running, running, running from sex. Others say, “I’m just here to say I’m not running. I’m wanting more. I’m just wanting that once. I’ve got to have it, you know?” It’s really about oneness. All the urges that we have, all the desires—we’re going to talk about sexual thoughts and being tempted sexually, not next week, but the following week. We’re going to talk about what we do with our desire. How do we obey this person and control ourselves without going too far? But it’s really about oneness. Sex is really about communicating. It’s really ultimately about intimacy. And we can experience intimacy with God now, tonight, through Jesus. We can be covered. We can have that feeling of being open and vulnerable to God, and He can know us and look at us through Jesus Christ and say, “I love you. You’re My son, you’re My daughter.” If you’ve never experienced that, you’ve never really lived.
[Ben leads in a closing prayer.]