We have reached the fifth week of our series called Nuptially Challenged. In this long series, we’re talking about marriage and all the challenges that come with it.
Marriage isn’t easy. It’s tough. It’s hard work. There are huge challenges to overcome. But our God is bigger than our challenges. He can lead us through the challenges we face. A fulfilling, joyful, God-honoring marriage is still possible, even in the middle of a culture that really doesn’t get marriage at all.
We’ve talked about all kinds of different nuptial challenges in this series. For the next two weeks, we’re going to talk about one of the biggest challenges facing both singles and married folks today.
The challenge of sex.
And the temperature in this room just changed with the very mention of the word. I’m not sure that there is a more emotionally charged word in the English language.
At the very mention of this word, there are people in this room who are uncomfortable. Angry. Worried about what I’m going to say. Excited to hear what I’m going to say.
This word can be a source of great joy or deep regret. It can be a word of incredible freedom or great shame. It can make people defensive…even hostile.
But most of all, this word is misunderstood. There are so many sexual messages that have saturated our culture that it can be incredibly difficult to understand the truth about sex. Over the next two weeks, we are going to spend our time turning down noise so we can hear the voice of God.
The next two weeks are going to be intense. And they are going to produce different results in your life, depending on the posture that you take.
If you take a posture of arrogance and pride, the next two weeks will bounce right off of you. Or they will make you angry and defensive.
If you take a posture of humility, the next two weeks can be a source of freedom and healing and joy.
Now, I know I’m doing a lot of set up here, but I do need to explain a few more things. First of all, these messages are going to be raw, direct, and honest. I’m not going to mince words because this is just too important. The language in these messages is going to be intense at times. But while these messages will be graphic, they won’t be pornographic. There’s a difference.
The reason for this kind of direct intensity is because the stakes are just too high to be timid or hesitant in our approach. To put it bluntly, we live in a culture that has a gross misunderstanding of sex and it is killing people. These misunderstandings are killing people physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And when the lives and eternities of so many people are on the line, I’m not going to mess around.
Now, anytime a pastor talks about sexual issues, there is always kickback. There will always be the inevitable comment, “You shouldn’t talk about this in church.”
Think about it this way. Tom Nelson tells the story about a crocodile that was terrorizing a native village. One day, an explorer happened onto this village. And he immediately noticed how many of the village residents were injured and maimed. Some were missing arms. Some were missing legs. Many had scars from the crocodile’s huge teeth. But nobody talked about the crocodile.
When he asked what had happened, he was told, “We don’t talk about crocodiles.”
During his stay in the village, he was horrified when he saw the damage that this crocodile was doing. He saw the crocodile swallow people in one bite. The croc really seemed to have a taste for teenagers and twenty-somethings.
The explorer saw people being eaten alive. He saw others narrowly escape the croc’s jaws, but not without scars that would last for the rest of their lives. He witnessed the havoc and mayhem that this crocodile was causing in the village, but every time he tried to talk to the village elders about it, he was told the same thing. “We don’t talk about crocodiles.”
That is the exact stance that many churches take when it comes to sex. We don’t talk about it. We know it’s killing people all around us. We know we are surrounded by people who are carrying lifelong pain and scars from their sexual mistakes. We know that the Word of God holds the truth for every issue in our lives, including this one. We know that God’s grace can heal any brokenness in our lives, including sexual brokenness.
But we don’t talk about crocodiles.
That will never be true of Connect. At Connect, we talk about crocodiles. We talk about issues that are killing people. And we also talk about the grace and love of God that has the power to heal all our wounds.
But you just need to know upfront that we are a church that talks about crocodiles.
One more thing to note…I fully understand who is in this room. I know our students are worshipping with us today. I know we have some very young middle school students in this room today. The message today is a message that they desperately need to hear. Parents, you know what your teens are exposed to on daily basis. You know the sexual messages that they are bombarded with everyday. They need to hear that word that I’ve got for you today.
Next week, we’re going to do things a little differently. Next week is a very direct, graphic message on married sexuality. To put it bluntly, we’re going to talk about what God has to say about what goes on in the marriage bedroom. And our students are going to be dismissed to a separate teaching time next week with Dan Robinson. Dan is the leader of Connect Students, and he does an amazing job teaching and leading our teens.
Now, I’m not naïve about what our teens hear and see everyday. And I realize that what they would hear in the message next week won’t come close to what our pornographic society exposes them to. [Wrecking Ball!] But our society doesn’t care about them. Our society doesn’t love them. But our church does. And I’m not going to use certain language when I’m talking to a teenager who really can’t do anything with it. That’s not fair. That’s not loving. And I’m not going to do that.
Like I said, I know this has been a lot of setup for the next two weeks. But now we’re ready to go. Today is going to be controversial and difficult, so we definitely need to pray for God to lead us as we get started.
Like I’ve said every week of this series, the foundational Scripture for this series is from Hebrews 13. “Marriage should be honored by all…” (Hebrews 13:4a, NIV)
But now, let’s read the entire verse. “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” (Hebrews 13:4, NIV)
This verse shows us both the positive and the negative effects of sex.
When we follow God’s plan for sex, it is honored. It is pure.
The plain fact is that God is not down on sex. He created it. He designed it. Adam and Eve didn’t just accidentally bump into each other one day and say, “Whoa, what was that? I think we need to do that again!”
God created sex on purpose, by design. It wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t an unintended consequence of the way he designed our bodies. He created sex intentionally, and He has an intentional design and plan for sexuality.
When we follow His design, it is good. In fact, it is great. There is no shame in godly sexuality.
Here’s what Genesis 2 says about God’s creation of Adam and Eve. “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” (Genesis 2:25, NIV)
This all went down before sin entered into the world and made a mess of everything. This is a picture of creation perfection. This is when the world was exactly as God intended for it to be.
And in that state of created perfection, Adam and Eve were naked…and there was no shame.
God doesn’t deal in shame. He doesn’t deal in guilt and regret. And if that is where you’re living, you need to know that those feelings are not from God. God doesn’t deal in that stuff.
When God created sex, His creation was perfect. It was pure. It was holy. It was very, very good. The shame, the guilt, the regret…all of that came on the scene when sin made its appearance. But even in a world that is so broken and so sinful, godly sexuality still exists. And it is still completely shame-free.
But we also have to talk about the other side of the coin. When we reject God’s plan for sex, there are consequences. Again from Hebrews 13, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” (Hebrews 13:4, NIV)
God created sex to be good, but when we reject his plan for sex, there will be consequences. We invite God’s judgment. And I know that words like “consequences” and “judgment” are totally rejected by our culture today, but just because culture rejects something doesn’t mean that culture is correct.
Here’s the truth that we see in this verse from Hebrews 13. God created sex for marriage.
According to what we see in Scripture, marriage is one man, one woman, for life. And that marriage is the context for sexual expression, enjoyment, and fulfillment.
Like I said earlier, God is not down on sex. God gets a bad wrap for being anti-sex. The church gets a bad wrap for condemning sex.
God created sex. But He also loves us enough to tell us how to handle it.
I read something incredible this week. I know you may not understand where I’m going with this at first, but hang with me.
Sports Illustrated reports that 78% of NFL players go bankrupt just two years after retirement. Let that sink in for a minute. Many of these athletes make millions upon millions of dollars in their career. And then, just two years after their retirement, 78% of them are bankrupt.
I think we would all agree that making millions of dollars would be a huge blessing…but many of these players were never taught how to manage the blessing. And because that’s true, the blessing becomes a curse.
When we’re not taught how to handle a blessing, that blessing becomes a curse. But God loves us enough to not only bless us, but also teach us how to handle the blessing.
Sex is a good gift from God. It is a blessing. But God also loves us enough to teach us how to handle the blessing. When we reject His teaching, the blessing turns into a curse. What God meant for our good becomes something that hurts us. What God meant to fulfill us turns into something that empties us. What God meant for our enjoyment turns into a source of pain. God gives us the blessing, but He also loves us enough to teach us how to handle it.
That’s why God gives us some guardrails when it comes to sex. The guardrails that He gives us aren’t meant to spoil our fun. They aren’t arbitrary rules because God just wants to be mean. They are guardrails to keep us from driving over the cliff.
The main guardrail for sex is marriage. Marriage is the context where sex is blessed. Within marriage, sex is good. There is no shame. It is an uninhibited, free expression of love and commitment between a husband and a wife. In that context, sex is a blessing.
But when we take sex outside of marriage, the blessing becomes a curse. The car jumps the guardrail and crashes.
The problem is that we live in the middle of a culture that doesn’t believe in guardrails of any kind. And when it comes to sexual guardrails, it’s not just that our culture doesn’t believe in them. Our culture openly mocks them. Our culture gets militant and angry and even violent about sexual guardrails.
But let me ask you this…how much sexual brokenness and scars and pain do you see all around you? Because I see it all around me. Our culture may not believe in sexual guardrails, but it’s also not hard to see the results. There are a lot of people in this room who know that’s true because you’re still living with the scars and the pain because you ignored these guardrails.
When you read the Bible, you see that God’s formula for sex is not complicated. Sex outside of marriage is sin.
God’s plan for marriage is one man, one woman, for life. So this means that sinful sex includes homosexuality, erotica, bestiality, bisexuality, fornication, friends with benefits, adultery, swinging, prostitution, incest, rape, polygamy, polyandry, sinful lust, pornography, and pedophilia.
Any sex that is outside of one man, one woman, in the commitment of marriage is outside of God’s plan.
That’s especially difficult when we live in a nation where 13 states plus the District of Columbia have fully legalized gay marriage. It seems to be a foregone conclusion that gay marriage will eventually become the law of the land. At least that’s the way that the political wind is blowing right now.
On this issue, we have a choice to be politically correct or biblically correct. And here at Connect, we choose to be biblically correct.
In Romans 1, the Apostle Paul wrote, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools…” (Romans 1:21-22, ESV)
When it comes to sex, we are surrounded by people who claim to be wise. People with a lot of letters after their name write articles and books. They go on TV talk shows. And they espouse all their sexual “wisdom.” But they don’t recognize God. They have rejected godly sexual guardrails. They claim to be wise, but the truth is that they are fools.
And Paul goes on to tell us the result of their foolishness. “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;
and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” (Romans 1:24-28, ESV)
Homosexuality, bisexuality, gay marriage all fall outside of God’s sexual guardrails. It doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love people who decide to jump His guardrails. In fact, He loves them so much that he lets them go. Paul said in Romans that “God gave them up” to their desires.
God will never force His will on you. It’s always a freewill choice. God loves you enough to allow you to choose Him or reject Him. He also loves you enough to warn you of the consequences you’ll experience if you do reject Him.
But He also loves you enough to always leave the door open for you to come back to Him. That’s what the cross of Christ is all about. Jesus died for all our sin, and his sacrifice opens the door for us to come back to God.
That’s true for all of us, because we have all sinned. We have all fallen short of the mark. And your sins are no worse or no better than my sins. We’ve all jumped God’s guardrails in some area of our lives. We’re all on a level playing field. We all need Jesus.
Now, we need to understand that God’s sexual guardrails aren’t just about homosexuality. That one gets a lot of press because it’s such a political hot button, but it’s far from the only guardrail.
Living within God’s sexual guardrails is difficult when seemingly every TV show you watch, every movie that you see, and every book that you read promotes and glorifies sex outside of marriage. “Sex is a natural part of any dating relationship. In fact, if you’re not having sex with the person that you’re dating, something is wrong with you. You’re strange. You’re weird. You’re not normal.”
Listen, if you’re single, I know the intense pressure and the intense temptation that you’re facing. But I also want you to understand the consequences of jumping the guardrails. And the blessing that comes with living within those guardrails.
It really comes down to the difference between lust and love.
We have to remember that lust and love have different timetables. Love waits for the right, God-given time to fully express itself. Lust looks for the first opportunity.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul reminds us that “love is patient.” (1 Corinthians 13:4a, NIV)
He also says that, “[Love]does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered…” (1 Corinthians 13:5a, NIV)
Love is patient, meaning love is willing to wait to fully express itself.
Love does not dishonor others and it is not self-seeking, meaning that it won’t push the other person over the edge for the sake of selfish satisfaction.
And love is not easily angered. If a person loves you, they won’t be angry when you desire to live within God’s guardrails. In fact, they will honor you for that.
If you’re not in that kind of dating relationship, then you are in the wrong relationship.
Ladies, if you are dating a guy that is pressuring you to jump God’s guardrails, you need to drop that jerk like a bad habit. You are a princess of God, and you deserve a prince. Not some hormonal jerk looking for a sexual conquest.
In Proverbs 31, it says, “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.” (Proverbs 31:10, NIV)
Ladies, keep your character intact. Don’t give it up to some loser who just wants to use you. Keep your character intact, and here’s why…because you are worth far more than rubies. You are so beautiful. You are so valuable. And you need to wait for a man of God who will recognize that, and honor that.
Now, ladies, you also need to think about this. Are you keeping your character intact by how you dress? When you look at how you dress, are you advertising something that you’re not selling? I want to tell you as a guy that sometimes the way you dress makes it very, very tough for us. I’m not giving guys a pass. No matter how a girl dresses, it’s no excuse for a guy to ignore God’s sexual guardrails. But at the same time, ladies, you need to know that it’s already hard enough for guys. We don’t need you making it even harder by what you wear.
Guys, if you’re dating a girl that is inviting you to jump God’s guardrails, you need take a page out of Joseph’s book. You need to run.
In Genesis 39, we read about a guy named Joseph who worked for a high ranking government official named Potiphar. (This isn’t the Joseph from the Christmas story. Different Joseph.)
Here’s what went down with Joseph. “So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.
Now Joseph was well-built and handsome [today, girls would say that Joseph was a hottie], and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!”
But he refused.
“With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am.
My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”
And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. [That’s key right there. It wasn’t just that he wouldn’t go to bed with her. He wouldn’t even be with her because he knew how strong the temptation would be. But she ended up launching a sneak attack.]
One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.” (Genesis 39:6-12, NIV)
Gentlemen, that’s how it’s done. Joseph had a girl that wasn’t just inviting him to her bed. She was begging him. Talk about high pressure!
But Joseph did what a man of God does. And it’s what the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6. “Run from sexual sin!” (1 Corinthians 6:18a, NLT)
Run. Some translations say, “Flee.” Just get away. Get out of the situation. Get out of the relationship. Just get out. Flee. Run. Because you have no idea how high the stakes really are.
I know this is tough. It’s probably the hardest thing for a Christian single to do. It is the single hardest principle for a Christian dating couple to follow. It’s so hard because it is so counter-cultural.
Rick Warren said, “There’s not one commercial ad anywhere that urges you to wait on anything. That daily brainwashing makes maturity tough.”
We are not taught to wait on anything. Especially something as exciting and pleasurable as sex.
That’s why our culture mocks virginity. Our culture mocks sexual guardrails. But what our culture mocks in foolishness, God honors in His wisdom. And when we recognize His guardrails are there because He loves us and wants what’s best for us, we discover a sexual relationship that is more exciting and fulfilling than anything our world has to offer. Our world doesn’t believe that. Our world openly mocks that. But it’s true.
Now, let’s take it a step further. Obviously we live in a culture where dating sex is the norm. But we also live in a culture where cohabitation is the norm. And even when people don’t believe in casual dating sex, cohabitation…living together before marriage…seems okay because it feels like there is more of a commitment.
Let’s go back to our verse in Hebrews 13. “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” (Hebrews 13:4, NIV)
God said that the marriage bed must be kept pure. The marriage bed. Not the dating bed. Not the engaged bed. Not the “we’re just living together so we can give marriage a test drive” bed. Not the “we’ll get married when we can afford it” bed. God said that sex is reserved for the marriage bed.
Listen, I’ve been a pastor long enough that I’ve heard all the excuses. I’ve heard all the ways that people try to justify it. But nothing changes the fact that cohabitation…moving in together…shacking up…whatever you want to call it….nothing changes the fact that it’s not marriage. God created sex for marriage.
God said that marriage should be honored by all. Living together, acting as a married couple without making the commitment, dishonors marriage as God designed.
Now, it doesn’t mean that there’s no hope. You’ve jumped God’s guardrails, but there is always grace. There is always a second chance. But if you’re living with someone that you’re not married to, you need to begin by recognizing that you are living outside of God’s sexual guardrails.
C.S. Lewis put it this way. “The monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one kind of union (the sexual) from all the other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union.”
Ultimately, this is why God put these sexual guardrails in place. Sex is a physical union that is designed to be part of the total union that is marriage.
Here’s the way Jesus Himself said it in Matthew 19. “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?
So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6, NIV)
Sex is part of the overall marriage package. And marriage is a complete union. So much so that, in God’s eyes, when you get married you are no longer two people. The two become one person. That’s the depth and the strength of the marriage union.
We’ve been sold a lie that you can separate sex out of that union. That it can be casual. It comes with no strings attached. It’s all pleasure and no pain. It’s all fun and no consequences.
But the problem is that by the time a lot of us discover that it’s a lie, the damage is already done.
Rick Warren nailed it when he said, “Sex is far more than a physical connection. You give yourself, and they don’t make a condom to protect your heart.”
If you want to know why God put guardrails around sex, this is it. Because the depth of the connection is far more than most of us understand. Sex outside of marriage is connection without commitment. And connection without commitment is just a fast track to pain.
So my goal today is two-fold. First of all, if you haven’t yet experienced the damage and the pain that comes from jumping God’s guardrails, I want to save you from it.
And secondly, if you know the pain that comes from sex outside of God’s design, I want you to receive the healing and the second chance that Jesus is offering you today.