ILL: A friend and I drove by a huge billboard with a bikini-clad model lying seductively by a car battery. I said, “Now what does that have to do with car batteries?” My friend said, “That sells batteries. It got your attention didn’t it?”
We live in a sex-obsessed culture. Everyday we are bombarded with thousands of sexual messages that are shaping the way we think about sex and shaping our sexual behavior. What does God have to say about sex? That’s what we’re going to talk about the next three weeks.
For the next three weeks, I want to talk with you about sex. Why? We live in a sex-obsessed culture that has lost its moorings. And it’s not just “out there”; it’s “in here” too. I know many Christians who are confused about what God says about sex, who are involved in sexual sin, or who are trapped in pornography or other sexual addictions. When it comes to sex, many of us are being shaped more by our culture than by God’s word or the Holy Spirit. Marriages, families and people are being destroyed. So I think it’s imperative that we speak up clearly and kindly, that we hold up God’s word and call Christians to obey and be different.
I am indebted to James Emery White from Mecklenburg Community Church for some of the ideas he shared in a series of sermons in 2005 entitled “A Church Talks About Sex.”
The title of this talk is “Sex and the City”. You might be wondering why I would choose this title for a talk in church, especially if you have ever watched Sex and the City. I believe it represent our culture’s view of sex, which is my first point.
1. Sex and the City: our culture’s view of sex.
Sex and the City was a successful HBO series that ran from 1998 to 2004, and spawned two movies by the same title.
“It is the story of four thirty-something single women in New York. Sarah Jessica Parker starred as Carrie Bradshaw, a self-described “sexual anthropologist,” who writes a newspaper column called “Sex and the City,” that chronicles the state of sexual affairs of Manhattanites in what she calls an “age of un-innocence.”
Her group of friends includes nice girl Charlotte, hard-edged Miranda, and party girl Samantha. As you would imagine, the show was about sex and relationships. But it was more than that. It was about how sex is the relationship. And the relationship is largely about sex. And that sexual freedom and fulfillment is a virtue. An entitlement. And it shouldn’t mean too much – just physical pleasure.” (JE White, A Church Talks Sex, Part 1, Sex and the City)
In our culture, sex has been reduced to another form of recreation.
ILL: In an episode of Friends, Monica asks one guy, “So, we can [just be] friends and have sex?”
And he says, “Sure. It’ll just be something we do together, like racquetball.”i
Sex is just another form of recreation. Have you heard the term, “friend with benefits?”
ILL: The movie, No Strings Attached came out last month. It’s about a couple that decides to be “friends with benefits”. One website summarizes the movie this way: “A man and woman try to keep their relationship strictly physical, but it’s not long before they learn that they want something more.”
What a reversal! We used to say that a relationship was strictly platonic, and we waited for marriage for something more, for sex. Now, we start with sex, and we end up longing for something more than just the physical. Sex is an expected benefit of friendships. By the way, I am citing these movies and shows as examples of the shift in our culture; I am not recommending that you watch them. In fact, I recommend that you don’t. Here’s why:
The message in these shows is that sex is to be enjoyed with no thought for boundaries or consequences. It’s not just these shows. One study found that over 14,000 sexual references are shown on TV per year, and that the average person will view over 100,000 of those references in his or her lifetime.ii And the message in those 100,000 references is almost always the same: it’s always fun, always exciting, always right, always without consequence, so just do it. Does watching this affect you?
An article in the Daily Mail in November of 2008 noted the influence these shows have on adolescents. The article cited a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Paediatrics that specifically recognized Sex and the City, and Friends, for “glamorizing sex while hardly mentioning its downsides, such as pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases”. The study found that females 12–17 who watched these, and similarly “sexually charged” shows were about twice as likely to get pregnant as those who did not, and teenage male viewers were more likely to impregnate someone. 
So it shouldn’t surprise us that nearly three-fourths of all high school students say that they have had sex by the time they graduate. Or that one out of every five listed at least half-a-dozen partners, and one out of every six said they’d lost their virginity by the age of 13.iii
People say, “It’s just a movie. It’s just a TV show.” No, it’s more than that; it’s a message. It’s a morality. And it’s the new standard in our culture.
ILL: Four in ten American say that marriage is obsolete, and the growing number of births outside of marriage confirms this. 50 years ago, only 5% of children were born out of wedlock; today 41% are born to single moms. We don’t need marriage; we can have sex with anyone we want.
And sadly, this message—sex without boundaries or consequences—has been unthinkingly accepted by many Christians.
ILL: Ten years ago, approximately 25% of the Christian couples that came to us for pre-marital training were already living together and/or having sex. Today, that number is closer to 75%.
So Sex and the City is a mirror into the culture of our day, a culture that is increasingly saying that sexual activity is what we are to be about, and what we are to value. But as Kim Cattrall, who played Samantha on Sex and the City, once said in a radio interview, “It’s much more fun being single on Sex and the City than it is in real life.”iv There are consequences and there is a better way.
Let’s go to the second point: Sex and the Bible, at God’s view of sex. Here’s what many people think it is:
Video: Love’s Still Waiting.
2. Sex and the Bible: God’s view of sex.
That’s what some people think the Bible says about sex: it’s dirty and if you do it, you’re a sinner. Just the opposite is true.
A. Sex is God’s idea and it is good.
Sex is in the very beginning of the Bible, in the creation. Sex, you see, was God’s idea. He designed us as sexual creatures.
Genesis 1:27-28 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’ God saw all that He had made and it was very good.”
God created us male and female, sexual creatures. Sex is not an accident, or an afterthought; it is an integral part of God’s design. And God looked at His design and said, “It is very good.” After everything else He created, God said that it was good, but after creating male and female, God said it was very good. And after 35 years of marriage, I concur; it is very good! God designed us as sexual creatures; sex is God’s good gift to us.
Genesis 2 elaborates on our creation as sexual beings. God had created Adam, the first man, but Adam was lonely. And God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” First, God paraded all the animals by Adam, but no suitable helper was found. The words “suitable helper” mean “someone who corresponded” to Adam, someone like himself in every way and yet different; someone with whom he could interact as equals, as peers. The parade of animals wasn’t God’s attempt to convince Adam to be happy with one of them. “See, wouldn’t you like a nice puppy? Man’s best friend; very loyal, and they never talk back!” It was just the opposite: God was showing Adam how different he was from everything else, and accentuating Adam’s loneliness. By the time the parade ended, Adam’s loneliness was acute: “There is no one for me.” That’s when God said, “I’ve got a little surprise for you; I think you’ll like it a lot, but I need your cooperation. I want to do a little surgery, and I need to put you to sleep.” Adam agreed, God administered the first anesthesia, and when Adam awoke, he took one look at Eve and said, “Wow! She’s smokin’ hot!” That’s the literal meaning of the Hebrew words! That was the beginning of the sexual awakening, and the sparks have been flying ever since.
Some Christians believe that sex was the original sin; they say that Adam and Eve eating the fruit was symbolic of the first sexual act. This leads, of course, to the conclusion that sex is sinful, wrong, dirty. But that is a mistaken view. Mankind’s fall into sin is described in Genesis 3, after the creation stories in Genesis 1-2 in which God created us male and female and commanded us to procreate. Adam and Eve were making love long before they ate the forbidden fruit. The Bible never teaches that sex is the original sin; it teaches that sex is God’s good gift to us.
And why did God give us this gift? For three reasons (I’ve elaborated on these more fully in the last series I did on this subject, Pure Sex)
For procreation: the extension of the human race.
God’s good gift was intended to produce children. This is obvious. At creation, God commanded them to be fruitful and increase in number.
Genesis 1:28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”
There is only one way I know that you can be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth: you’ve got to have sex!
God’s good gift was intended to produce children.
For recreation: the enjoyment of physical pleasure.
God’s good gift was intended for pleasure. Sex is fun! It is enjoyable! And God intended it to be that way. Remember, He is the one who designed your body. All those nerve endings that produce such powerful feelings of pleasure: God’s idea! He could have made it drudgery, or a duty; instead he made it a delight.
ILL: I remember explaining to our children how babies are conceived. They couldn’t believe it! “Gross!” And then one of them said, “Well, you’ve only done it a couple of times, right? I mean, just enough to have us.”
“Well, not exactly,” I said. “We do it lots. We enjoy it.”
“Gross!” They couldn’t believe that anyone could enjoy something like that. We carefully explained that God made it fun, so that married couples would enjoy making love.
I’m glad God did it the way He did! Just like the Bible uses the language of love to describe sex, it also uses the language of pleasure. Just one example:
Proverbs 5:18-19, “May you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer–may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.”
Notice the language of pleasure: rejoice, be satisfied and be captivated.
Not only was sex God’s idea, but the physical pleasure of sex was too. Your body has the capacity for sexual pleasure because God made it so. God’s good gift was intended for pleasure.
For adoration: the expression of marital love.
Our most common euphemism for the sex act is “making love.” And making love is an appropriate name for sex, because God intended the sexual act as a physical expression of love between a married couple. Husband and wife share an act of incredible intimacy and closeness; love is communicated in tender words and caresses that express the lover’s delight with the loved one. The Bible uses the language of love when talking about sexual desire; I refer you to the Song of Solomon. The point here is that sex is for more than just physical pleasure or procreation; it is a powerful expression of love. God’s good gift was intended to express the deep love of husband and wife.
Sex is God’s idea and it is good. And God’s good gift was given with some clearly defined boundaries.
B. Sex is for marriage.
God intends that His good gift be enjoyed by a husband and wife committed to a lifelong relationship with each other. At the end of the creation story, when Adam awakens to behold his wife, the marriage ordinance is given.
Genesis 2:24-25 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”
God who created sex describes here its context: one man, one woman, one flesh for a lifetime. God’s good gift is for marriage. In marriage, the gift is good; outside marriage, it has tremendous destructive potential. So God set up some boundaries.
No Adultery:Adultery is sexual intercourse between a married person and someone who is not their spouse. Adultery violates the marriage covenant of fidelity, and often destroys the marriage. The Bible has many prohibitions against it, beginning with the Ten Commandments.
Exodus 20:14 “You shall not commit adultery.”
One New Testament example:
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.”
Ask anyone whose spouse has been unfaithful, and you’ll know why God says “no adultery.” The pain, the sense of betrayal, is devastating, and is an example of the destructive power of sex outside its boundaries.
No sexual immorality. Most people accept that adultery is wrong, but don’t see anything wrong with sex before marriage, sex between single adults. But God also says “no sexual immorality.” The Greek word that is translated “sexual immorality” is porneia—we get “pornography” from it—and it means any kind of unlawful sexual intercourse. What would be unlawful sexual intercourse? It’s referring to God’s law that clearly forbids all sex outside of marriage, including adultery, premarital sex, prostitution, rape, incest, homosexuality, and bestiality. (For example, see Leviticus 18.) All of these are unlawful sexual activity and are included in this word porneia, sexual immorality.
Sexual immorality includes premarital sex, and the Bible repeatedly forbids it. I meet many people who are surprised by this. They don’t think that the Bible forbids premarital sex as long as it doesn’t involve someone who is already married. But it does. Often and clearly. Every time the word porneia is used—26 times in the New Testament. Here is just one example:
1 Corinthians 6:18-20 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.
Flee from sexual immorality! Don’t try to negotiate with sexual temptation; run!
ILL: A couple who were dating came to see me because they were struggling with sexual temptation; it seemed overwhelming at times. So I asked them when it seemed most overwhelming, thinking that I might help them identify the point of temptation so they could avoid it. “Well, it is hardest for us when we’re in bed together naked.” Yeah…I can see how that would be hard!
Flee from sexual immorality! Get the heck out of there! Don’t put yourself in tempting situations. And notice that your body is not your own; it belongs to God. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, so honor God with your body!
Sexual immorality is sex outside of marriage, and includes premarital sex, and the Bible tells us not to go there. I want to be clear about this: the Bible says that sex before marriage is sin, and commands us to avoid it.
A word here to all of you who are thinking about getting married: Life Center offers some of the finest pre-marital training available anywhere. We have over 30 trained couples that do our pre-marital training which includes 7-8 sessions over a four-month period. If you want one of our pastors to marry you, contact us at least 6 months before your wedding so you can do the training. Our training is very thorough; many couples have said that it was more work than their college courses! Why do we make it so rigorous? Because we don’t just do weddings; we build marriages that will honor God. At your first meeting with us, we talk about four key commitments we expect if we are going to do your wedding:
Relationship with Jesus. We expect both of you to have an authentic relationship with Jesus, and to build your life together around Him.
Complete the training. We expect you to complete the pre-marital training.
No divorce. We expect you to be committed to lifelong marriage and to agree to get help early.
Sexual purity. We expect you to abstain from sex and not live together until you are married.
I mentioned earlier that 75% of the couples that come to us for pre-marital training are already sleeping together. We require them to stop co-habiting and stop having sex and be chaste until their wedding night. If they can’t agree to this, we can’t do their wedding. We have made some people angry, but we have to obey God. And you should too! Do the right thing!
This is what God’s word requires. It is also just good sense. Secular studies have indicated time and again that couples who cohabitate have a higher divorce rate and less marital satisfaction than those who don’t. A study from the University of Wisconsin discovered that couples that cohabit before marriage increase their odds of divorce by 50 percent, and that only 15 out of every 100 cohabiting couples were married after a decade.v
Sex is God’s good gift, but He puts some boundaries around it: no adultery, no sexual immorality, and no lust.
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 took the outward commandments and made them inward. “You’ve heard it said, ‘don’t murder’, but I say to you don’t be angry.” And here He takes the commandment against adultery deeper: don’t lust. The purity that God wants is a thorough going purity of heart and mind as well as body. Jesus knew that wrong acts start with wrong thoughts; the most powerful sexual organ in your body is your brain.
This is why pornography is so wrong.
It isolates sex from marriage and turns it into a lustful fantasy.
It objectifies women—it reduces them from persons made in God’s image to mere physical objects of lust and desire.
It isolates husbands from their wives and ruins marital sex because it is impossible for marital sex to live up to the fantasy.
It kills families. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers noted that 56% of divorce cases now involve “one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.” There is a direct correspondence between porn sales and the divorce rate.
Pornography is incredibly addictive and destructive, and if you are struggling with it, get help. It thrives in secrecy; it begins to die in community. We have sexual addiction groups here at Life Center that can help you. And when we post this message on our website, we’ll include some resources for recovery from pornography addiction. But don’t try to overcome this alone; get help.
God says that sex is for marriage; therefore, no adultery, no sexual immorality, no lust. Is God some cosmic killjoy, looking for ways to make us miserable? No—just the opposite.
C. God wants the best for you.
God created you as a sexual creature, and His instructions in the Bible are given so that you can operate at peak performance, so that you can experience the maximum benefit in life. These aren’t arbitrary instructions; they are given for your benefit.
1 Corinthians 6:13 “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”
God designed you for himself, not for immorality. You are only truly free and fulfilled when you do what you were designed to do. You don’t set a fish free by taking him out of the water. Fish were designed to swim, and they are free when they are doing what they were created to do. God designed you for Himself; you will only be free and fulfilled when you follow His instructions. God wants the best for you.
People have said to me, “But if God designed us as sexual creatures, and sex is good, why shouldn’t I take every chance I can to experience God’s good gift. God created sex, so why shouldn’t I enjoy it?” God created poison oak; why don’t you roll in it? God created the Grand Canyon; why don’t you jump off? Yes, God created sex, but for the context of marriage. Fire is good in my fireplace, but when it gets in the walls of my house, it’s destructive. Dynamite, in the hands of an expert can be used for many beneficial purposes; in the hands of a novice, it is deadly. And sex is dynamite! God created sex for marriage and said it is good; outside marriage, it can be disastrous. Keep the fire in the fireplace!
God wants you to experience the best, and God wants you to avoid the worst. There are consequences to every behavior, including sexual behavior. Here are some of the consequences of violating God’s sexual standards that God would like you to avoid. (This is what they are not telling you in the movies!)
1. Physical. Unwanted pregnancies. Of the 6 million pregnancies in the US each year, more than half are unintended, and 1.3 million of those are terminated by abortion. 750,000 of those pregnancies are to teenage girls.
Or sexually transmitted diseases. There are more than 25 known STD’s including AIDS; many of them are incurable. Over 15 million new cases of STD’s are diagnosed each year. Anyone who has sex outside of marriage is at risk. The only truly safe sex is a monogamous man with a monogamous woman in a monogamous lifelong marriage. Even an honest answer to an intimate question is no guarantee that a person is safe, for an STD can be transmitted even while it is asymptomatic.
2. Emotional. The most ridiculous buzzword in our culture is “safe sex”. Many people mistakenly view sex as a purely biological or physical activity, and are ignoring the incredibly complex emotional and spiritual consequences. Seattle Weekly columnist Kathryn Robinson wrote “Even the kid armed to the teeth with contraceptive gear can’t strap on anything strong enough to protect him or her from the various emotional residues of sex.” To give yourself unreservedly to another person in an act of intimacy and vulnerability, and then be rejected, is devastating.
ILL: One woman said, “I dated this man for 2 years and I finally gave in to his persistence. I gave all of myself to him. And I wanted to. I want to show him how much I loved him. And now he’s dating and sleeping with my best friend. Do you know how that makes me feel?”
Yes. It demolishes your self-esteem, it makes you feel used, betrayed, cheap and abused. There is no safe sex outside of a permanent, monogamous marriage. There is no contraceptive ever made that can protect your heart. Want safe sex? Put on one of these (wedding band).
3. Social. Many friendships have been undermined by premature sexual involvement. Sex always complicates and often ends the friendship.
And there are consequences for marriage too. Many couples who have sex before marriage are hurting their chances for marital happiness. They are sowing the seeds of mistrust. I’ve had spouses tell me, “He/she compromised with me before we were married; how do I know he/she won’t compromise with someone else now?”
4. Spiritual. Sexual sin clouds your relationship with God with guilt, and often people end up running away from God to escape the guilt (which of course doesn’t work, and only makes things worse). I have known many people who vanished from church, and when I tracked them down, found out that they were involved in sexual sin. When we disobey God sexually; it affects us spiritually.
Sex is for marriage. Inside marriage, it is a beautiful thing. Outside, it has incredible destructive potential. God wants the very best for you and wants to spare you the pain.
So here are two messages: Sex and the City, or Sex and the Bible. Which are you going to believe? How are you going to live?
i Lauren Winner, Real Sex, p. 78.
ii Winner, p. 63.
iii See “Nearly 75% of teens admit having sex,” The Charlotte Observer, Friday, November 25, 1994, p. B1.
iv Quote heard on 104.7 KISS-FM; via PreachingToday.com
v Terry Mattingly, Washington Bureau religion column (8-21-02), preachingtoday.com
8^ Wigmore, Barry, “Sexually charged shows such as Sex And The City and Friends to blame for rise in teenage pregnancy” 11/4/08 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1082571/Sexually-charged-shows-Sex-And-The-City-Friends-blame-rise-teenage-pregnancy.html Access date 9/22/10