Build it right!
Part 4: The intimacy of sex
We’ve been talking about “Build it right”—how to build marriages that last a lifetime. We’ve talked about the foundation of friendship, the sizzle of romance, and the glue of commitment; and I’ve said that all three of those need to be in place before you experience the intimacy of sex. There’s a sequence to build it right; sex comes after the wedding, not before.
Today we’re talking about the joy of sex in marriage. I should warn you that if you have small children in the service, you may want to take them to their classes. Otherwise, this could happen to you:
ILL: About 17 years ago, I did a series on sex. After the final message, Laina and I were driving home from church with our five kids in the car. Our daughter, Sally, who was 7, had sat through the service.
Sally asked, “Daddy, where do you and mommy do sex? In the bathroom?” I looked at Laina, and then told her, “No, we usually do it in bed.”
“Why?” Sally asked. I explained that it’s more comfortable lying down in bed.
She thought a moment and then asked, “Daddy, who’s on top?” I looked at Laina again, and she just smiled and said, “You started it!”
I’m not going to be talking about techniques, places and positions—if you have questions about any of that, see Laina. But I’m going to talk about what the Bible says about sex and marriage.
Offering and announcements:
Easter services: sign up now to volunteer in AdventureLand (back of tear-off); please be specific about which service or services and which age group you prefer. “We’ll need volunteers to descend like locusts in Egypt.”
Baptisms: (#3) baptism classes today during all services; baptisms are next Sunday, March 7.
We’re going to have a little fun before I dive into this talk.
ILL: A couple years ago, one of our wonderful Adventureland volunteers was helping out with the three year-olds. They were gathered around a table covered with butcher paper and were drawing with crayons. One little 3 year-old had drawn two people pressed tightly together. The volunteer asked who that was, and the 3 year-old said, “That’s mommy and daddy in the bedroom having family time.” Family time…I like it!
Zac and Eric, what do you call it?
Zac and Eric: Business time
Sex was God’s idea. He created it. The Bible says in Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female he created them.” God made us male and female, and then He said in Genesis 1:28, “Be fruitful and increase in number.” In other words, God told Adam and Eve, “Make love…a lot!” Sex was God’s idea.
And God made it good. Genesis
Genesis 2:24 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” To “be united” literally means, “glued together”, and in this verse it’s connected to sex: “be united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” In the sexual act, two become one. Sex is a very bonding experience! When two people give themselves to each other physically, it unites them, it glues them together, even if the sex is casual.
Casual sex, recreational sex is very popular and widely accepted today. The Bible is clear that God intends sex for marriage. So what about singles? If you’re not married, what do you do with your sexual desires? I’m going to make a few brief comments now, but most of my comments today will focus on sex within marriage. However, the subject of how singles should handle their sexuality deserves a more thorough treatment, so we’ve decided to extend this series one more week, and next Sunday Brad is going to talk about singles, relationships and sex.
1 Corinthians 6:15-20 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 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.” 17 But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
This is one of many passages in the New Testament that command us to flee from sexual immorality. The Greek word is porneia—we get pornography from it. It means sexual activity outside of marriage. Sex outside of marriage is wrong and we’re to avoid it—whether it is premarital sex or extramarital sex. Why? What word is repeated? Unite. When two people have sex, they are united. It bonds you. When you have sex, two become one. And unless you are committed to each other for a lifetime—marriage—you are being glued together only to be torn apart.
God created sex. He created it for marriage and made it good. In marriage, it bonds us together—very powerfully. But when we have sex outside of marriage, this is what happens. We hurt ourselves and others. This is why there is no such thing as safe sex outside of marriage. No one has ever made a condom that can protect your heart. When you have sex with someone, you give away a piece of yourself; you become one flesh with that person. Without the protection of a committed marriage, you will be torn to pieces by temporary relationships. Please, do yourself a favor, and save yourself for marriage.
God made sex for marriage. And the best sex happens in marriage because it’s there that we learn how to make love, not just have sex. Did you notice I said that we learn how to make love? It’s a learned activity. How many of you went on your honeymoon expecting sexual fireworks and got a dud? After months of mounting sexual desire and anticipation, did your honeymoon fizzle instead of sizzle? I’ve discovered that the honeymoon letdown is incredibly common because making love is a learned activity.
It never occurred to me that making love is a learned activity; I thought it just happened–boom! Sex is like golf. I remember the first time I played golf. I thought, “How hard can this be? Hit a little white ball with a great big stick—it’s easy!” I was awful. But the more I practice and play, the better I get.
Making love is like that; the more you do it together, the more you learn what the other enjoys. You learn how to bring pleasure to your mate, which is what it’s all about. Laina and I enjoyed the adventure of learning together on our honeymoon; it was fun! But it was a learning experience. We’ve gotten better and better at understanding what each other likes and wants, and at meeting each other’s sexual needs.
Marriage provides a couple the security to safely learn together how to make love, which is much more than just having sex. That’s why the best sex happens in marriages.
Let’s talk about some ideas about making love that can help you build it right.
1. Develop the right attitude.
The most powerful sexual organ in your body is your mind. Having the proper attitude toward your spouse and his/her sexual needs is the first step to sexual fulfillment. Here are two attitudes you should have.
- A. God wants you to be faithful to your spouse.
Hebrews 13:4 “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”
Marriage should be honored by all. The marriage relationship is to be valued and protected. By all. Whether you are single or married, you are to value and respect the marriage relationship.
The first requirement for marital and sexual fulfillment is fidelity. If your spouse doesn’t trust you, if your spouse doesn’t believe that you are committed to him/her heart, mind and body, then your sexual relationship will never be what it should be. Why? Because it is impossible to give yourself unreservedly and be completely vulnerable with someone whom you believe might hurt or desert you.
The sexual relationship is exclusive. This is something you share with each other and no one else. Your spouse wants and needs to know that they have full claim on your affections, that you have eyes for no one else, that you are a one-woman man, or a one-man woman. Any violation of this trust, any hint of infidelity, has disastrous consequences for sexual happiness.
ILL: I know of a woman who had an affair, and then confessed to her husband. Since that time, they have had no sexual relations; in fact, he can’t even bring himself to touch her. He says he forgives her and wants to save the marriage, but every time he tries to get close to her physically, he imagines this other fellow making love to her, and he is repulsed. His trust has been shattered, and with it, his desire to make love.
I also know couples who have survived an affair, forgiven each other, and gone on to have a fulfilling sexual relationship. But they will tell you how difficult it was. Relationships are built on trust, and there are few things that shatter trust like sexual infidelity in marriage.
Jesus recognized this. When He was asked in Matthew 19:3-9 if it was ok to divorce your wife for any and every reason, Jesus answered that there is only one reason for divorce: infidelity. Marital unfaithfulness. Jesus didn’t say that the victim of infidelity must divorce, only that it was permissible. Jesus recognized that infidelity is such a deep breach of trust that the offended party may not be able to regain trust; the relationship is shattered. I’ve always thought that Jesus’ words here show the depth of the pain caused by infidelity.
Laina and I protect our marriage by carefully guarding our love and affection and making sure that no outsider is allowed to share what belongs only to us. Practically, this means so much more than just avoiding adultery—physical infidelity. It means we guard our hearts against mental or emotional infidelity. Here are three guidelines I use as a married man.
- I am never alone with another woman. A well-known older pastor has three rules for married men: 1-never be alone with a woman. 2-never be alone with a woman. 3-never be alone with a woman. It’s good advice. I don’t have lunch or dinner or coffee alone with another woman. I don’t ride in a car alone with another woman. Call me prudish. Call me crazy. I call me happily married.
- I am careful about my working relationships with women. I know that the workplace is the biggest hotbed for extramarital affairs, so I’m very careful to make sure that working relationships are just that, nothing more. Be careful at work!
- I guard my thoughts. I don’t allow myself to fantasize about someone other than Laina. Mental infidelity always precedes physical infidelity.
Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Jesus doesn’t forbid looking. He forbids looking lustfully. It’s not wrong to look and admire; it’s wrong to look and desire. Every man in the room looks at women. But you don’t have to look lustfully, you don’t have to fantasize. If a wrong thought pops into your head, you don’t have to entertain it. Martin Luther said, “You can’t stop a bird from flying over your head, but you can stop it from building a nest in your hair.” Guard your thoughts.
This is why pornography is wrong. You are looking lustfully. You are not guarding your heart, your thoughts. It is mental infidelity. And I’ve never met a wife who didn’t feel hurt, betrayed and degraded when her husband used pornography. Men, if you are struggling with pornography, I encourage you to get into a men’s accountability group—call Randy at our office. You’ll find help there.
Be faithful—physically, mentally, emotionally! Fidelity is first. It is the foundation of sexual fulfillment. A second attitude:
B. God wants you to meet your spouse’s sexual needs.
1 Corinthians 7:3-5 “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 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. 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.”
Notice three things.
First, the apostle Paul says that a married person is responsible to meet the sexual needs of his/her spouse; that we are to fulfill our marital duty to one another. To “fulfill your marital duty” is clearly referring to meeting our partner’s sexual needs. My marital duty is to satisfy my wife! If she wants me or needs me, she gets me! Woohoo! “I’m here and I’m reporting for duty!” And Laina’s marital duty is to satisfy me.
Second, your body is not your own. It also belongs to your spouse. My body belongs to Laina; she can have it anytime she wants! And her body belongs to me. This means very simply that if your spouse wants to have sex, your answer is…yes! Your body belongs to your spouse and if he wants it, if she wants it, the answer is yes!
Third, don’t deprive each other. We are not to refuse to have sex except for mutually agreed upon times of prayer; and when we’re done praying, we’re supposed to make love again so that we aren’t tempted to satisfy our sexual urges sinfully outside of marriage. Paul recognized that if our sexual needs aren’t met inside of marriage as God intended, we will be tempted to meet them outside of marriage, so he says, don’t deprive each other; meet each other’s needs.
Don’t deprive each other. I have talked with couples who have gone weeks, months and sometimes years without sex; that was why I was talking with them! The average couple has intercourse 1-3 times a week, which is not surprising since a healthy man produces enough semen in 48-72 hours that he feels a pressure that needs to be released. In other words, God designed our bodies for regular sexual release. And when couples go weeks, months and years without intercourse, they are violating the way God created them, and begging for trouble. Just like you ladies have a cycle every 28 days, men have a cycle too—every 48 hours!
God says, “Don’t deprive each other.”
Develop the right attitude: be committed to full fidelity (heart, mind and body), and to meeting the needs of your spouse.
2. Create the right atmosphere.
Once we have developed the right attitude, we need to create the right atmosphere. How do we do that? Two suggestions.
A. Affection: sex begins in the kitchen.
Dr. Kevin Lehman wrote an excellent book entitled, Sex Begins in the Kitchen, and he’s right! Good sex doesn’t start at bed-time; it starts at breakfast time, with the way he treats her. Most women are not interested in sex without affection or romance.
Well-known American sexual expert Jerry Seinfeld says, “The difference between men and women is that men are like firemen. To men, sex is an emergency, and we can be ready in two minutes. Women, however, are like fire. They’re very exciting, but the conditions have to be just right for it to occur.” Jerry’s on to something. Most wives don’t just want affection and romance; they need it!
Men and women tend to be different at this point. For a man, romantic experiences with his wife are warm, enjoyable and memorable, but not essential. For a woman, they are her lifeblood. Her confidence, her sexual response and her zest for living are often directly related to those tender moments when she feels deeply loved and appreciated by her man.
- That is why flowers and candy and cards are more meaningful to her than to him. I’ve never understood why women like flowers! They’re expensive and they wilt!
- This is why she is continually trying to pull him out of the television set or the newspaper, and not vice versa. I’ve never had to ask Laina to put down the paper and talk, or turn off the TV and pay attention to me; but often she’ll snuggle up next to me when I’m trying to read, or stand in front of the tube and say, “Yoohoo…are you in there?” My granddaughter, Jenna, who is 2 ½ said to me when she came in the house on Friday, “I need a little attention.” It starts early!
- This is why the anniversary is critically important to her and why she never forgets it…and why he had better not forget it!
This need for romantic love is not some quirk or peculiarity of your wife…it is the way God made women! A woman never loses the need to be romanced, while most men don’t even possess that need!
Even male/female arousal patterns reflect this difference. Men are like gas stoves: they turn on instantly, and when they’re done, they turn off just as quickly. Women are like electric stoves: they take longer to heat up, and longer to cool down. A man’s arousal curve is quick and steep, from the first point of interest to climax: it looks like
When a man’s approach to sex is “two minutes” (like our song), it is no wonder his wife finds sex distasteful, and feels she is being used. Every woman wants to be romanced. Every woman wants to be wooed, and wanted, and made to feel special. Husbands, sex begins in the kitchen, with the way you treat her, the kindness you show her, all during the day. Your wife needs a romantic prelude to sexual intercourse.
So what can you do to romance your wife? What can you do to create an atmosphere that is conducive to maximum sexual fulfillment? Ladies…help me out…what else would you like your man to do? (Take notes men!)
- Plan a regular date with your wife. Take her away from the kids and the dog and the dishes, and treat her to some time of quiet conversation with you. Sit and stare at her and tell her how wonderful she is.
- Surprise her with a card, some flowers, a small gift–when it isn’t her birthday or anniversary or Christmas, and when you’re not apologizing for something!
- Call her from work and tell her that you were thinking of her, and wondering how her day was going.
- Tell her often how much you love her, and how committed you are to her.
- Be chivalrous: open doors for her, hold her hand in public, offer her your arm.
- Introduce her in public with obvious pride.
- Be sure to kiss her goodbye when you leave, and hello when you get home.
- Give lots of hugs. Touch communicates love, so touch a lot. It might seem superfluous to you as man, but I promise you that it means lots to her.
- Make time to talk with her. Turn off the TV, put down the paper or your book, look her in the eye and give her your undivided attention.
- Break the rules. If your love life is in a rut, try something new. Break some habits.
Husbands, your wife needs affection and romance. If you don’t know how to do that, ask her for help. And wives, if he asks, don’t get frustrated and say, “Oh! It isn’t the same if I have to tell you what to do.” You might have to tell him at first…we’re a little slow, but give us time, and we’ll eventually get it right!
Which leads to our final point: you create the right atmosphere by communication.
B. Communication: talk about it honestly.
If we had to make a living being mind-readers, we’d all starve to death! Yet many people want their spouses to read their minds when it comes to their sexual needs and desires. ..
ILL: One husband loved to garden; he especially enjoyed growing prize cucumbers so his wife could make pickles. During the winter, he studied the seed catalogs, looking for the newest and best varieties of cucumbers. In the spring, he eagerly tilled, planted and tended the cukes. Meanwhile, his wife spent the winters searching for new pickle recipes. Her pickles were prizewinners every year at the county fair, and visitors to their home always left with a jar of pickles. Every year, he lovingly grew cucumbers and she lovingly made pickles.
Years passed, and the husband died. The next spring, thinking their mother would want to make pickles, the couple’s grown children offered to plant the cucumbers for their mother. “Thank you, kids, but don’t bother,” she said. “I never really enjoyed making pickles; I just did it for your father because he loved them, and loved planting the cucumbers.”
The youngest son was upset because just before he died, his father had confided that he didn’t like pickles or enjoy planting cucumbers; he only did it because his wife seemed to enjoy making the pickles and winning prizes.
The good news is that both husband and wife were trying to do what they thought pleased the other. The bad news is that neither of them ever bothered to ask the other if they were pleased, and they wasted all that time and effort.
Sex is like making pickles. You’ve got to talk about it.
Nothing is harder to talk about than sex…because nothing strikes more deeply at the root of our self-esteem, our identity, our masculinity and femininity than sex. When a woman criticizes her husband’s sexual performance, she has attacked his manhood. When a man questions his wife’s sexual performance, he has assaulted her womanhood. This is touchy stuff! Perhaps you discovered this the first time you dared to talk about it after you were married, and the conversation dissolved into angry accusations, hot tears, and a cold war. So we don’t talk about it, and live in quiet frustration.
But we have to talk about it. If you ever hope to maximize your sexual relationship, you need to be able to talk about it honestly. Do you have the courage to ask your spouse, “What is it like making love with me? Are there things I do that you like or don’t like? Are there things you wished I would do?” Please answer these questions honestly–but carefully. In asking them, your spouse has laid his/her heart in your hands; treat it with care.
If you can’t imagine yourself talking about this, try writing a letter to your spouse. That can be a less frightening way to open up a dialogue. Or get a good book on sex, such as Dr. Clifford and Joyce Penner’s The Gift of Sex, or Restoring the Pleasure, or Ed and Gaye Wheat’s Intended for Pleasure, and read it together, talk about it, and then try what they say!
I know what my wife likes because she tells me; and she knows what I like because I tell her. But it took us awhile to arrive at a place of security and maturity where we could talk about our sex life without feeling personally threatened. But what a difference good communication has made. Talk about it!
God wants you to have a sexually fulfilling relationship. Develop the right attitude by being faithful and meeting your spouse’s sexual needs. Create the right atmosphere by learning how to be affectionate and how to communicate!