A Biblical Guide To Sex…

***I want to be very careful about how I broach this topic. We’re commanded not to let any unwholesome thing come out of our mouths (or keyboards), and I want to be obedient to that command. What’s more, there are certain topics and situations that ought only be discussed in very private company. Having said that, we are still talking about sex, so by necessity this post will probably be PG-13. You’ve been warned.***

With last weekend’s release of the 50 Shades of Grey movie, and the corresponding Valentine’s holiday, a lot of people have been talking about sex. And that’s not exactly surprising. Sex is a pretty hot topic. We’re hardwired to desire and enjoy sex. We’re hardwired to pursue sexual relationships. People like sex and it’s no surprise they like to talk about it. What is surprising is that so many Christians have been talking about sex, and if you were raised in the kind of church culture I was raised in, then you know that is definitely rare. In fact, in all the years I’ve been in church, just about the only thing I’ve ever heard anyone say about sex (Mark Driscoll and Ed Young Jr. aside) is that you shouldn’t do it, at least until you’re married and even then you got the impression that it’s still kind of dirty.

Again, maybe this is just my experience, but it seems to me that most Christians talk about sex like it’s a necessary evil. Sex is almost always spoken of negatively within the church. We talk about what we shouldn’t do. We talk about who shouldn’t be having sex. We talk about when we shouldn’t have sex. We talk about why we shouldn’t have sex. Sex is almost always spoken of negatively within the church. And I think that’s unfortunate. Sex is a wonderful gift from God, and when practiced in a Biblical fashion, can be fulfilling, fun, and God-honoring. So the question for us today is, “What is the Biblical model of sexual behavior?” Put another way, “What does it mean to have God-honoring sex?”

Now I have neither the time nor the inclination to offer an exhaustive rendering of the Bible’s teaching on sex and sexual activity. However I would like this post to be both Biblical and pragmatic. So for the sake of time, I’ll offer these 5 thoughts and trust you to do more research if you have more questions…

1.) Sex should be marital. (Genesis 2:24)

This is first and foremost. Sex should only be practiced by two people who are married to one another. Because the Biblical definition of marriage is the spiritual and physical bonding of a man and a woman for life, then by definition, sex should only be practiced by a man and a woman who are married to one another.

I know. That’s old-fashioned. That’s outdated. That’s not the way the world works today. But that’s ok. Sex within marriage only is old-fashioned because Scripture tells us it was established at the very beginning of time, in the Garden, by God. And because God never changes, neither does Scripture, and neither does our definition of marriage and sex. Scripture is the lens through which we Christians are to view the world, and as such, Scripture provides clarity and focus when the world is distorted, not the other way around. To be clear, any and all sex outside of the marriage covenant is a sin. Period.

2.) Sex should be monogamous. (Hebrews 13:4)

Now I know that this sounds a lot like number one, but I want to be clear. Both physically and mentally, sex should only, ever involve the husband and the wife. To put this as carefully as possible without crossing the line of decent conversation, sex can be fun, and creative, and original, but if sex includes anyone other than your spouse, whether in person or simply in your imagination, then you are committing a sin.

3.) Sex should be loving. (1 Corinthians 13)

I mention this particularly because of the recent popularity of the 50 Shades books and movie that, as far as I can understand from reviews, is about a man who physically and emotionally abuses a woman through what is commonly called S&M. The woman, for her part, seems to agree to this, but that does not make any of it an act of love. Furthermore, sex that is motivated by love would never include shame, injury, or selfishness.

4.) Sex should be consensual. (1 Corinthians 7:5)

I would think this goes without saying, especially after the first three points of this post, but I want to be very clear. The covenant of marriage does not give either spouse the right to sex. When we get married our bodies are no longer ours, the two have become one flesh, and to withhold sex from your partner for an extended period of time without mutual consent would be wrong and unwise, but that does not give either partner the right to force themselves on the other partner.

5.) Sex should allow the husband and wife to retain their Scriptural roles. (Ephesians 5:22-33)

I suppose this one might be a bit controversial, especially if you’re still unclear on what the Scriptural roles of the husband and wife are, however I think it’s vital to our conversation. First, when I say Scriptural roles, here’s what I’m not talking about. I don’t mean that the woman should be at home, barefoot and pregnant. I don’t mean that the husband should be domineering or a bully. I simply mean that husbands are called to love their wives (see #3), and protect them from harm. Wives are supposed to respect their husbands, and be their helpmeet. If sex involves a husband hurting his wife, then he is not protecting her. If sex involves a wife disrespecting her husband, then she is not being his helpmeet.

Once again, I realize that this is not an exhaustive list of all the Bible has to teach about sex, however I hope it has at least answered a few questions, and given a few practical tips to those navigating their sexual relationships. It can be very difficult, in this sex-saturated world, not to buy into the world’s ideas and the world’s opinions about sex. Again, let us resolve to make Scripture our guide and we will never stray from the truth. As always, I welcome questions and comments.

My Absence…

I apologize for my absence and failure to update the blog recently.  Our church is in the process of changing meeting locations and while it’s an answer to prayer, it has also involved a great deal of planning and work, leaving little time to blog.  I hope to rectify that problem in the near future. Thanks for your patience.

A Most Tragic Anniversary…

A Most Tragic Anniversary

Yesterday marked the 42 anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that made abortion legal in all 50 states.  What followed is perhaps the greatest tragedy in American history.  Almost 55 million babies have been aborted in the US since 1973.  Given that there are about 65 million Gen-Exers, we have in essence aborted an entire generation of Americans.

As a follower of Christ, I believe that all life has intrinsic value, because all life is created by God.  Humans in particular are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).  This means we matter to Him.  He loves us, thus we should love each other.  He loves us, thus we should consider all human life as precious.  He loves us, and means for us to live.

It’s easy as a believer to be passionate about the abortion debate.  It’s easy to get angry.  It’s FAR too easy to put our faith in government, politicians, and social activists to do what only God and His Gospel can do, that is change hearts and lives.  So with that in mind, I thought I’d respond to 5 common arguments given in favor of abortion.  My desire is not for heated debate.  It’s not for political or religious rhetoric.  I simply want those who hold to a pro-choice mindset to honestly consider my responses.

Finally, I want to put all my cards on the table.  I am a pastor who believes that God created mankind and thus gives all mankind (man, woman, or child) intrinsic, holy value.  This is not about politics for me.  It’s about life.  What’s more, our family has suffered the loss of a child.  Our first child passed away in utero.  I held her.  It was awful, but it strengthened my resolve to care for and protect the lives of those who do not have to die.  What I’m saying is that this is personal.  I cannot distance myself from that, nor do I wish to.  Without further ado.  Here are 5 common arguments in favor of abortion, and my best responses according to Scripture and logic.

 

  1.  It’s not a human, it’s just a bunch of cells.

What exactly are we saying here, that human life is dependent on a particular stage of development?  What stage is that?  Is there some sort of imaginary timeline that marks the journey from nonhuman to human?  When does that happen?  Or are we talking about development?  Are you saying that its our development that makes us human?  Exactly how developed does a person have to be in order to qualify as a person?  At what stage of maturity does one become human?  And what do you say when the baby develops past a “bunch of cells?”  And if it’s just a bunch of cells, then why do you argue so vehemently AGAINST mandatory ultrasounds?  Aren’t you just looking at a picture of cells?

 

  1.  It’s not a human because it isn’t able to survive on its own.

Are you saying that we judge whether someone is a person or not based on their ability to care for themselves?  What about my 10 month old?  She can’t take care of herself.  She’s still dependent on me or her mother.  Does that mean she’s not really a person?  What about the elderly?  What about the physically disabled?  If they can’t care for themselves are they not human?  If so, when did they stop being human?  When did my grandmother stop being human?  Was it when she had to be placed in a nursing home?  When she developed dementia?  Do our veterans lose their humanity when they’re injured in battle?  And exactly how much do we need to be able to do for ourselves in order to still qualify as human?  When do we become human in terms of our own development?

 

  1.  A woman has the right to choose what is done to her own body.  

Do you really believe the baby is just a part of you, like an appendix or spleen?  Studies have shown that babies can feel pain as early as 20 weeks, independent of the mother.  In other words, your baby could experience pain while you felt fine.  Your appendix can’t do that, can it?  Speaking of freedom and the right to choose, didn’t you have the right to abstain from having sex?  Couldn’t you have told you partner, “not tonight dear?”  Couldn’t you have kept track of when you ovulate and refrained from sexual activity during that time?  Didn’t you have the freedom to use contraceptives?  Don’t you have the right to buy the pill, condoms, IUDs, or even have sterilization surgery?  If you were free to choose sex, then you were free not to choose sex.  You chose sex and now don’t want to deal with the natural consequences.

  1.  I’m worried about the baby’s quality of life.

How exactly does one gauge “quality of life?”  By all rubrics, people here in the US are wealthier, healthier, and have more freedom than those in 3rd world countries.  Does that mean American lives matter more than those in the 3rd world?  How do you know that a higher quality life equals a better life?  How do you know that a longer life equals a better life?  Isn’t some life better than no life?  Aren’t you really saying you’re worried about your quality of life?

 

  1.  What about rape or incest?

There’s no denying that this one is tough.  Both are terrible crimes and those committing said crimes deserve the full force of justice.  But there are all kinds of crimes for which remuneration/justice isn’t possible.  Thieves can’t always pay back what they took.  Murderers can’t bring their dead victims back to life.  A crime can’t be undone, so how does taking an innocent life make the situation better?  As a believer, the gift of life, even out of something so awful, is a reminder that we have a redeeming God who makes joy out of sadness.

 

Let me close with these few thoughts…

If you’re considering having an abortion, would you please contact a local church?  I know SO MANY families that would love to care for you and take care of you during this difficult time.  I know SO MANY families that would love to have children but can’t, and would love to adopt a child.  Is 9 months really too much to ask to give new life?

If you’ve already had an abortion, please don’t think that I hate you or vilify you.  I want you to know that your life is JUST AS VALUABLE to God as anyone else’s.  He loves you and wants to have a relationship with you.  He came to earth to die for your sins and make you one of his children.  If you’d like more information about that, would you contact me?

 

The Most Influential Books In My Life…

It’s the that time of year when everyone (ok, mostly pastors) begin planning out their year in regards to what books they want to read.  I might post my list soon, but thinking about what I wanted to read got me thinking about what I’d already read.  Which books have been most influential in my life?  This is my top 10.  These aren’t necessarily my list of the best books, or even my favorite, though some of them are.  It’s just the ones that have had the most impact on my life and ministry.

Two things to note.  First, It occurs to me that with only a few exceptions, (Reverberation and Rhythms of Grace) I read most of them in my college years or in the years between college and my first ministry job.  I was searching for clarity and direction and these books offered that.  Second, there aren’t a lot of “classics” on this list (Augustine’s Confessions, Calvin’s Institutes, etc.).  This isn’t because I don’t love those books, or that they’ve not had a great influence in my life.  Rather, those books came AFTER I’d already read these ones.  When I was younger, and less spiritually mature, these books opened my eyes to thoughts, theologies, and other Biblical truths that would later help me read the classics, but these came first, and are thus more influential.  So this is my list for now, in no particular order.  Thoughts?  What books have you found most influential?

1.  Desiring God by John Piper.

This was my first taste of reformed theology proper, and one of the only books, outside of Scripture, that stirs my soul to live for God’s glory.  I reread it almost every year and I discover new “stuff” every time.  I first read it during a time in my life when I knew I was called to ministry, but was fighting and dreading that calling, and Piper’s rephrasing of the Westminster Catechism, “The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever,” was the first time I’d ever considered that God’s call in my life might actually lead to great joy.  It has.  Piper was right and I’m forever grateful to him for teaching that to me.

2.  Knowledge Of The Holy by A.W. Tozer.

This short book is PACKED with great theology, and if you’re a preacher, great sermon quotes.  His most famous being, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” I know you could argue that the most important thing about us is what comes into God’s mind when He thinks about us, but I think you’d be quibbling.  Tozer’s point is the same, and valid.  The extent that we entertain high or low thoughts about God, will determine both our relationship to Him and our usefulness to Him.  This book is all about God and the more you read, the more you’ll rededicate yourself to Him and His work.  Read it.  You won’t be sorry.

3.  The Making Of A Man Of God:  Lessons From The Life Of David by Alan Redpath.

Redpath isn’t as well-known as I think he ought to be.  He was a Baptist minister from the UK who came to the US and pastored the Moody Church in Chicago.  It’s a simple book, just basic exposition from the Psalms and Samuel but it was given to me around the same time I was called into ministry.  I can’t remember if it was right before, or right after, but either way, it affected my willingness to obey in a profound way.  I also like to read it devotionally, because it’s divided up into stand alone sermons which lend themselves to a brief read.

4.  Where Do We Go From Here?  A Guidebook For The Cell Group Church by Ralph Neighbour Jr.

This is sort of a dark horse.  I don’t agree with everything Neighbour writes and I’m not the pastor of a cell group church, though I’m not entirely opposed to it.  I don’t appreciate just how critical he is of the traditional church and I think he could have written more graciously.  Still, it opened my eyes to the dangers of a programmatic approach in church (where we assume we’re doing ministry because we’ve added more programs) and it still affects the decisions I make as a pastor regarding the allocation of resources within the church.  The ideas in this book are the reason I counseled one of my churches to begin meeting in their gymnasium, which was more than adequate to seat their congregation, rather than build a new facility.  The ideas in this book still lead me to believe that educational space, outside of children’s ministry, is some of the most underutilized and therefore greatest wastes of God’s resources.  Read it critically.  Eat the meat, spit out the bone as Dr. Stan May says.

5.  The Chronicles Of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. (whole series)

If you’re tracking along with me, you’d probably have thought Mere Christianity, or the Screwtape Letters would have gone here.  Every great Christian book list has at least one Lewis book and those are the most obvious.  And while I do love both of those books, and just finished Screwtape again, I think the Chronicles series had more of an impact on my spiritual life.  Mere Christianity helped me with apologetics and Screwtape helps fight temptation, but Narnia made me happy in God’s infinite, eternal, immutable plan.  “Aslan is on the move,” was a reminder that Christ WILL redeem the whole world unto Himself, and that WILL work for our good and His glory.  I’m not embarrassed to say that sometimes when I read it, I get a little weepy (don’t tell anyone), and if you’ve not read the creation passage in The Magician’s Nephew, where Aslan sings Narnia into existence, then you’ve got to go buy the set today.

6.  Reverberation by Jonathan Leeman.

This is one of the newer books on this list.  I’ve said that this list is supposed to be the most influential books in my life, but in truth, this book didn’t say anything I hadn’t read before.  But that’s a good thing.  What it did was put many things I’d read, many threads, and thoughts that were swimming in the ether of my mind and condense them into one brief, readable source.  I have everyone in leadership at my church read it.  In some ways it’s a systematic theology about ecclesiology.  If that doesn’t sound interesting then you probably aren’t going to enjoy this blog. (It’s at this point that I’d place a smiley face emoji if I used those sorts of things)

7.  Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem.

If Leeman’s book is “sort of a systematic theology,” then obviously this one is the real deal.  It’s been listed as one of the most influential books of the late 20th Century and will continue to have great influence into the 21st Century.  I consult it on an almost weekly basis in sermon preparation. Because Grudem is precise and concise in his explanations, and has a great ability to make difficult ideas seem simple, I recommend it for every Christian who wants to grow deeper in their understanding of God and doctrine.

8.  Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God by Jonathan Edwards.

This isn’t really a book so much as it is a sermon, but it remains one of the most influential things I’ve ever read.  It’s also probably the earliest read on this list.  I can thank my high school English at Maranatha Christian School for assigning it sometime in the 10th or 11th grade.  It was my first taste of the Puritans who now seem to dominate my reading, and it was the first time I’d considered sermons as influential outside of a local congregation.  It also helped me see how to preach convicting sermons without the rank emotionalism so common in much of today’s preaching.  Also, there have only been a few people in history with the kind of mind as Edwards.  He is without argument the greatest theologian in American history, and perhaps the most important theologian since Luther and Calvin.

9.  Rhythms Of Grace by Mike Cosper.

This is another one of those books that might surprise you.  It was written so recently that I hesitated to put it on the list.  How can I know it will continue to have the kind of impact that these others have had?  Well, I don’t.  What I do know is that in reading it, I found a simple, thoughtful, helpful analysis of worship ministry.  I’m not sure anyone else has really done that, at least not that I’ve read, and so I’m thankful for it.  I especially appreciate the Christ/Word-centeredness of his approach and it’s one I continue to try to emulate in worship at my own church.

10.  9 Marks Of A Healthy Church by Mark Dever.

Every pastor, every Christian should read this book.  Far from being a book on church growth or a spiritual primer on your personal relationship with God (not that there’s anything wrong with that), this book offers a Bible-centric definition (is there any other kind?) of what the church really is.  If Christians read this book and really took it to heart, we wouldn’t have half of the trouble we do in the American church.

So what do you think?  Are there any glaring holes in my list?  What have been the most influential books in your life?

An Excerpt From Tomorrow’s Sermon…

Here is an excerpt from tomorrow’s message on Judges 14:5-11, The Consequences Of Samson’s Distraction.  Samson is on his way to marry a Philistine woman, a woman he has no business marrying, a woman he is forbidden to marry according to God’s Word, and on the way there encounters a lion.  By the grace and intervention of God he is able to overpower this lion and kill it, but that lion SHOULD have acted as a warning to Samson that he was going down the wrong path.  Unfortunately, Samson seems either unaware of or unconcerned about God’s clear warning and continues on his chosen path.  How should he have handled it?  That’s what this excerpt is dealing with…

Mark 9:43-48  “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, 44 [where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.] 45 If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell, 46 [where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.] 47 If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell, 48 where THEIR WORM DOES NOT DIE, AND THE FIRE IS NOT QUENCHED.”

I want you to understand what this is teaching us today.  Samson encounters danger because he is doing that which he ought not to do.  He encounters danger because he is distracted and tempted by sin.  That’s what sin and distraction do.  They keep us from our real purpose, wherein lies the safety of God’s protection, and they push us out into the danger of living outside God’s will.  Sin and distraction always place us in harm’s way.  And Jesus is telling us in Mark 8 that the way to handle that sin and distraction is to radically address it.  We are to go on the warpath against sin.

John Owen said:  “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”

Jesus says if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  He doesn’t mean that literally of course, but the application is simple enough.  If that relationship keeps causing you to sin, keeps putting you in the dangerous place of temptation, then END that relationship.  If you’re constantly under pressure and temptation to look at pornography, then get rid of your computer, or cancel your internet.  If your kid’s football games keep causing you to miss church, take the kid out of football.  What I’m saying to you today is that you need to begin taking the danger of sin seriously, and you need to begin addressing that sin in your life.

We’ve been talking about and praying for our friend Hannah.  I hope you’ll continue to pray for her.  Hannah has cancer.  Do you know how they sometimes treat cancer.  They apply chemo and radiation.  Chemo and radiation essentially kill perfectly healthy parts of your body.  They kill blood cells and they damage organs, etc, all in the hope that while killing healthy parts of you, they also kill the unhealthy part of you that is cancer.  Now why would they take the chance of killing healthy parts of you so as to kill the cancer?  It’s because they understand just how dangerous cancer really is.  Cancer is so dangerous, you cannot live with it.  It will eventually kill you.  So it’s better to kill the healthy parts of your body in the hopes of also killing the cancer, than it is to live with the cancer as it continues to infect the healthy parts of your body.  Bottom line:  Cancer is MORE dangerous than chemo.  So too, sin in your life is MORE dangerous than radically addressing that sin.  But how do we address it?

That’s the best part.  God has already addressed it for you, because he has already forgiven you of that sin.  He has already paid the penalty and price for that sin on the Cross, all that’s left is for you to acknowledge that fact and give that sin over to Him.  

Grace Abounding…

Once again

Overcome by sin

We need Your grace

All over again

Blessed be

The God that we

Have called in our

Most desperate need

(Chorus)

Grace abounding deep in Thee

Pouring out to cover me

Mercy, great; an endless sea

Blood of Christ my victory

When the pain

And sorrows mount

We longing come

Unto Your fount

To drink so deep

And fresh the stream

That ever lives

And flows from Thee

(Chorus)

Grace abounding deep in thee

Pouring out to cover me

Mercy, great; an endless sea

Blood of Christ my victory

When we lack joy

In dark despair

Our Savior always

Finds us there

Lifted up

The Precious Son

Shouting out

“The Victory’s won”

(Chorus)

Grace abounding deep in thee

Pouring out to cover me

Mercy, great; an endless sea

Blood of Christ my victory

Hallelujah

Joy divine

All a part

Of God’s design

Knowing by

His loving care

To join Him one day

In the air

(Chorus)

Grace abounding deep in thee

Pouring out to cover me

Mercy, great; an endless sea

Blood of Christ my victory

A Preview Of Tomorrow’s Sermon…

Tomorrow we’ll be studying Judges 14:1-11, Samson’s marriage to the Philistine woman.  This is an excerpt from my manuscript, dealing specifically with the difficult task of interpreting verse 4.

Judges 14:4  However, his father and mother did not know that it was of the LORD, for He was seeking an occasion against the Philistines. Now at that time the Philistines were ruling over Israel.

This is a particularly difficult verse, but one that I’m quite glad is here, because it saves us from looking at this story as a simple morality tale.  It would be very easy, and indeed it’s tempting while preaching it, to make this entire sermon about the good choices Samson made (there weren’t many) and the bad choices Samson made, and then dismiss us all by saying, “Make sure you make good choices, and avoid the bad ones.”  That would be easy, but it would not be the Gospel.  This verse is great because it reminds us that something bigger is going on than Samson’s personal character development.  Something bigger is going on than whether or not we ought to view Samson as a hero or villain.  This verse reminds us that God is always, constantly, utterly in control, even when we don’t see His evident, clear work.

But of course, this verse isn’t all that easy to interpret.  If we’re not careful we’ll end up with some really bad theology here.  If we’re not careful we might say, “Well, then it doesn’t really matter what I do.  God doesn’t really are about my holiness or my relationship with Him, or the decisions I make.  He’s already got a plan.  He’s already got this figured out.  So who cares whether I walk with Him or not.”  And it’s true that God has a plan.  And it’s true that we can’t thwart that plan or nullify that plan by our behavior.  But rather than see this verse as licence for unholy living, we ought to see it as evidence of God’s great grace.

In other words, Samson is so distracted from his ultimate purpose, so off-course from God’s plan for his life, and STILL God remained faithful and uses EVEN Samson’s screw-ups and sin for His ultimate purpose.  So rather than excuse us from doing good, it should drive us closer to God by revealing His goodness and grace.  It should remind us that God does not require perfection; He simply asks for a willing heart.  The purpose of this story is not to tell us that God requires perfection, and will not continue to use us if we become distracted.  Neither is the purpose to tell us that our behavior and the choices we make don’t matter to God.  The purpose of this story is to tell us that even when we make terrible choices, even when we’re so distracted from doing what God would have us to do, God is still willing and able to use us, He’s still willing and able to change us, and to ultimately bring Him glory.  Our God is a saving God, and a redeeming God and He can save and redeem EVEN our terrible, sinful, unwise choices.