December 15, 2013
Sean McCartin
Sex and Marrage 

What is important when it comes to sex? A great place to start is our attitude about sex. Our attitude determines our approach. And our approach dictates behavior. Do you know we can have both healthy and unhealthy attitudes about sex? Do you have a healthy or unhealthy attitude about sex? Our attitude will determine our approach and our behaviors.

Tim Keller outlines some popular attitudes throughout our Modern Era.

One attitude, or belief is that sex is simply an appetite hardwired into mankind. It is an innate impulse that we should not deny. It is much like food. I am hungry therefore I shall eat. All of us have been given an appetite for food and if we deny that craving we will literally die. This attitude says, “same with sex”. So our approach is to cooperate and yield with little to no resistance to our human impulse.  We call this an appetite driven person.

Another popular attitude is that sex is part of our lower physical nature and not a part of our higher spiritual nature. . Therefore it is dirty or sinful and is relegated to solely a function of procreation. We don’t talk about it; it is secret and completely private like a necessary evil.

Then there is the attitude some would say came out of the 60’s and 70’s. The attitude that sex is a way for self-expression and self-fulfillment. Sex is a way to “be yourself” or “find yourself”.  We should all be liberated to self realize through liberated sexual experiences with other consenting adults. Self-expression, self-realization, self-fulfillment. Notice the theme running throughout. Some would call it the sexual revolution or more accurately the self-revolution.

There are many views about sex in the world today and it can be quite confusing.

I spent many years as a teenager confused about sex and about God and had some crazy attitudes and crazy behaviors. I thought a lot about this topic, but didn’t really know anything about this topic. I was actually in a movie as a teenager, a small part, that reveals my confusion about sex and God. This was in my BC days.

Animal House clip (17 seconds)  – Very confused and very shallow about sex and God. I thought a lot about sex but I didn’t know very much about sex. Since then I have been in a journey of unlearning unhealthy attitudes and learning healthy attitudes from the Lord who created sex. I was someone who needed direction, guidance, mentoring and transformation.

It is interesting, as a young confused unbeliever, years later, that the first Christian youth meeting I ever went to was called “Sex and the Single Student”. I remember thinking “I didn’t think Christians talked about stuff like this.” I thought they only talked about angels, heaven and praying. But no they are talking about sex. It caught my attention.

And now you go to church and they are talking about sex. Christians talk about sex, churches talk about sex. Why is that? Because the writers of the Bible talk about sex. And the Bible talks about healthy attitudes about sex, healthy approaches to sex and healthy sexual behaviors. The best sex is biblical sex.

Is sex just an appetite, is it sinful and dirty, is it for self -fulfillment? No. These are unhealthy misconceptions that lead to very unhealthy outcomes. Well…enough of unhealthy attitudes let’s talk about healthy attitudes.

In the Bible we discover healthy attitudes about sex, which you won’t find in a magazine, let me tell you.

In preparation for this message I re-read through the Song of Solomon. It is quite saucy and sensual and romantic and godly. Yes that’s right! Sensuality and godliness go together, in the right context.

It is a very graphic interchange between the Beloved and the Lover. This is an ongoing conversation between Solomon (Beloved) and His Shulamite wife (Lover). It is a book about intimacy between a man and a woman, a husband and a wife. 

#5 Song of Solomon 7: 10-12 I belong to my beloved,
and his desire is for me. Come, my beloved, let us go to the countryside,
let us spend the night in the villages (a weekend getaway).

Let us go early to the vineyards
to see if the vines have budded,
if their blossoms have opened,
and if the pomegranates are in bloom there I will give you my love.”

Notice the Initiation by the wife and her creativity. A weekend getaway, a little field trip with some outside romance early in the morning.  Not something you could do in December in Spokane, but you come up with your own creative field trip.

When you are seeking to upgrade intimacy in your marriage think initiative, the unexpected and creativity. The investment will stoke the fires of intimacy.

Which leads to our big idea today:

Big Idea: God designed people for intimacy. God created sexuality for the man and woman as a pleasurable means to reinforce their oneness in marriage. Sex is about intimacy with your spouse. Intimacy is the desire to know someone completely and to be known by someone completely. To know and be known at all levels.

Genesis 2:25  “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. The first couple is a model of intimacy. They knew each other completely. If you are going to be intimate you must first get naked. Just like Adam and Eve who were naked in the garden and felt no shame.

In order to become naked you must de-cloth. We are the only creatures on the earth that have to de-cloth. I mean this both literally and figuratively.

Intimacy is about nakedness with your spouse in all areas of your life: physically, socially, emotionally, financially, mentally, relationally. Couples need to de-cloth and disclose totally so we can know one another totally.

  1. Let me share a non-sexual de-clothing story. At around the 5 year mark of our marriage I was struggling in life, withdrawing into my cave emotionally and I was a terrible communicator. I had an extremely difficult time sharing with her what I was feeling. My wife called it pouting, I am sure it was more complicated than that. She just saw Mr. Sad Sack but without any explanation. She would say what’s wrong and I would hide and go into my cave. I was hiding, not wanting to disclose emotionally, which meant I would not de-cloth emotionally, which meant a breakdown of intimacy. She cornered me one day and pressed and I was not gonna get naked emotionally. I had my emotional clothes on, and just like in winter I was dressed in layers. But I told myself I need to share. Even if it is embarrassing. I told myself to open up, it was hard, I started to utter sounds, I used some vowels, then constanents, then words, then actual sentences and I began to take off emotional clothing, one piece at a time and I shared more and more. Then it all came out. I got naked in front of my wife. I came out of my cave. I actually broke a pattern that day of shutting down with my feelings with my wife. It met a need for my wife and myself and we grew much closer that day. The intimacy meter rose. 

That is what it means to be naked with one another. God designed sex so it is way more than just taking off your physical clothes, but even more importantly taking off all the other clothes you wear. No hiding, whether it is money matters, career or job challenges, addictions, desires, sin, mistakes, dreams, goals, aspirations, insecurities, history, memories. The goal is To know and be known.

Did you know that in the Old Testament when talking about sex it uses the term “to know”?

“Genesis 4:1 “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, “

According to Tim Keller, a healthy attitude about sex, which leads to a healthy approach and healthy behaviors, is that sex is a:

whole life giving of yourself to someone completely.” It is about disclosing yourself.

The biggest misconception, distortion, lie is that sex is simply physical and we can compartmentalize sex. Oh no it is not and oh no we can’t. It is about oneness, being joined together at a physical level, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual level. Not just some of you or parts of you, but all of you. It is the gift of intimacy to be cherished and stewarded.

Let’s talk about the 3 E’s of Sex Intimacy that allow us to cherish and steward this powerful gift God has given to the husband and wife.

E # 1. The Ethics of Sex – Do you know there are guidelines for sex in the Bible? We can call them sexual ethics. Do you know why there are sexual ethics?

It is not because there is such a low view of sex in the Bible, quite the opposite. It is because there is such a high view of sex.

An ethic is a guiding principle that ensures the virtuous nature, moral goodness of something. i.e. Why do we have business ethics? So we don’t rip people off and we can enjoy longstanding, positive, mutually favorable business transactions. So we adhere to morally virtuous business practices.    

Sexual ethics keep sex in a place where it flourishes and nourishes the participants and glorifies God. Sex flourishes and nourishes those who steward it within the ethics it was originally created with. Everything works better with ethics. Even sports have ethics, like basketball for instance.

Did you know a college basketball court is 90’x54’. If you dribble outside of that big rectangle it is called out of bounds. Can you imagine going to a Gonzaga game and one of our illustrious point guards takes off dribbling up the stairs to level 2. Then he throws a pass to our other awesome point guard and he takes off running out the front doors of the arena. Then he passes it to our center who starts shooting at the out door baskets. That would be chaos and ruin the whole spirit of basketball. We also know that is not the play the head coach designed! That would be chaos. That would violate the spirit of basketball. If we take the content out of the context we have chaos.

We need to run the plays our Head Coach has wrote up for us. Sex needs to stay inbounds, on the court of marriage, not up in the stands, the hallways, the parking lot, but on the court, otherwise known as the marriage bed.

The big rock ethic in the Bible for sex is that it is between a husband and wife. Any sex outside of this ethic is unhealthy and therefore immoral. When something is so powerful, you must treat it with the respect it deserves.

God’s heart is that we respect the design of sex and be blessed through proper attitude, approach and behavior. When we misuse sex it will misuse us.  

I observed the chaos of removing the content from the context while in youth ministry for 10 years. I spent a lot of time on high school campuses and could couples quickly identify couples who violating the ethics of sex. The couples who were fighting, bickering, overly emotional, depressed, angry, jealous. It was drama central for those who were being physically intimate. Why?

They had put undue pressure on their relationship by experiencing the privilege of a covenant relationship without the marriage covenant. Their relationship could not handle the bonding effect of intimacy inherit in the gift of sex designed for marriage. They were not ready for this deep connection and commitment and it brought pressure they were not ready for. There is no such thing as casual sex.

That is why in the book of Song of Songs you will see over and over from the husband and wife this timeless and helpful instruction

”Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires”

Marriage is a covenant, a bond before God and people that ensures security and a commitment to keep the ball on the court, to cultivate oneness in the marriage bed.

Marriage is not a contract, or just a piece of paper, but a covenant. The word covenant is used 286 times in the Bible. Contract and conditional relationships and prenuptials is language of the world, covenant relationships of permanence and commitment is language of the Kingdom. There is great security in covenant relationships.

The security of togetherness is where sexual intimacy flourishes and nourishes. Marriage and sex also represent the covenant we have with God and the intimacy we share with Him. Healthy marriages with healthy sex lives are a great witness to this world of God’s goodness.

A sub-point or application to the ethic of marriage is what I call Inward Loyalty. Loyalty that we see starts with loyalty we don’t see. Jesus took loyalty from the exterior to the interior.

Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

When you’re loyal inwardly it is much easier to be loyal outwardly. If you’re not loyal inwardly you could face some serious temptation regarding being loyal outwardly. Inward adultery started way before the affair.

Proverbs 5:18-19 “May your fountain be blessed, and 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 intoxicated with her love.”

A powerful ethic of sex is to rejoice, be satisfied, and be intoxicated with one person. Your spouse. Not suzi, bobby, billy or debbie! Your spouse. Monogamy is not monotony.

The goal is to have a concentrated affection for your spouse rather than diffused affection. Diffused light is not very powerful but concentrated light, like a laser, can cut through lead. God wants us to have concentrated love for our spouse. We call it laser love.

It is one thing to rejoice when they are with us but it is another when rejoice in our spouse when we are by ourselves. Notice it says always and ever. I think that means all the time.

We can actually grow in our intensity for our spouses over time when we continually keep them as the object of our affections, our imaginations, and our thoughts. You thought you loved your spouse when you first got married, woah, you ain’t seen nothing yet. It can grow in intensity when you are inwardly loyal. You build momentum towards the wife of your youth, when you are satisfied with her and you become intoxicated with her. You are concentrated light, you can cut through lead for your spouse.

It is one thing when your spouse hears you say “I love you”. It is another thing when they feel you love them, it is oozing out of you and no words are used.

When they look in your eyes, years or decades later, you still got that sparkle for them in your eyes, and it is brighter. If you want a spark in your bedroom, get a sparkle in your eye through inward loyalty.

Be intoxicated with your spouse. I am drunk right now…. on love for my wife. I am over the legal limit. Somebody take my keys. The Bible doesn’t say “Don’t get drunk”, the Bible says don’t get drunk with wine. We gotta get the sparkle, the back in our eyes, that intoxication for our spouse and get the spark back in the bedroom. If you want the spark, get the sparkle.

What you think about or imagine when no one is around will either serve to diminish your love for your spouse or harness your love for your spouse. Paul says everyone to should learn how to possess their own vessel, or control their own body.  It starts with our thoughts. If we take responsibility for our thoughts our bodies will follow. A good thought life is like a good golf game. Keep the ball in the fairway.

To summarize…say yes to God’s ethics.

E #2. The Erotic Differences of Sex – The word erotic comes from the greek word eros which stands for sexual love. God is the God of eros love. It is shared between the husband and wife. Eros love is not just for the honeymoon. Our marriages start with saying I Do and if we are not careful later on we start saying I Don’t. We have to keep the I Do in our marriages. No more sexcuses.

We say, I have a headache, I am not in the mood, I am too tired, I don’t have time, I have to finish this project at work, we will when the kids get older, I have to fix dinner, I have to go play cards with my buddies, I need to finish this video game, I have to walk the dog.

Be careful that you don’t sexcuse intimacy right out of your marriage and become vulnerable to other temptations and sexual stagnation. We gotta stay sensual with our soul mate. How do we do that?

We gotta work together, get to know one another. We make it a priority. In order to do that we need to become experts about how our spouses are wired.

In the Song of Solomon they are very specific in their compliments to one another. They really know each other. They are experts, not of themselves, but of the other.

They compliment each others heads, faces, cheeks, lips, eyes, mouths, legs, temples, hair, noses, belly buttons, waist, stomachs, ears and a few other body parts. They are experts about each other, not about themselves, but of their spouses. Do we know our spouses?

We are different, husbands and wives. For instance, I came across some scientific research that completely surprised me and actually quite hard to believe. Scientific research has discovered that men think about sex twice as much as the ladies. I know, crazy right?

Men and women are different. Men are microwaves, instant heat, just push the button. Women are crock-pots, they warm up, that is why, men, love starts in the morning. God made man so sex would happen, God made women so sex would have meaning. Women respond to what they hear, men respond to what they see. Men are nurturing after sex, women respond to nurturing before sex.

These are not differences to manipulate the other, but to understand one another, and better serve one another. To keep the fires of romance alive requires some stoking, some maintenance, some work.

Communication is key. Talking candidly and kindly with your spouse about intimate matters makes sure we are not hiding from one another, or hurt by each other, or offended, or resentful, or confused, or bottling something up.

We need to stoke the fires of intimacy and be intentional about the sensual aspect of our marriages. Too many times spouses can focus on what they like and get disappointed. The goal is to focus on what the other appreciates and focus on that and make that the end of the story. It is the end, not the means to the end.

Years ago I read somewhere that men should deposit in their wives bank account if you want to build up the account and take withdrawals. So I would kid around and do stuff for my wife and say “I am just depositing into my wife’s bank account.” Part of me was kidding, part of me wasn’t. That is manipulation, not motivation. Intimacy with your spouse is not getting, but giving.

E #3. Enlightening Impact of Sex – Though much of our physical intimacy happens in the dark, sex is very illuminating. Just like marriage enlightens us about ourselves, sex enlightens us about our marriage. Timothy Keller says sex:

is a sign and seal of our oneness with each other and with God.” Sex is a sign of our intimacy. A very accurate evaluation tool. That doesn’t sound very romantic does it?

Sex is like a gauge that we read in our car that gives us an indication of the overall health of the car. What is happening in the bedroom can be symptomatic of what is happening outside the bedroom. What is happening outside the bedroom is symptomatic of what is happening or not happening in the bedroom. It can reveal both abundance and deficiencies in our marriage.

Sex is a built in accountability system that causes us to learn to respect and honor one another.

Some might say we are simply not compatible physically. God made us to be physically compatible. What may be happening is that relationally your not being compatible which is being revealed sexually. There may be problems with offenses, bitterness, resentment, rejection, hurt feelings at a relational level. Timothy Keller also states,

Sex is such a great and sensitive thing that you will not be able to sweep these problems under the rug.

If there is a lack of sexual compatibility it may not be physical problem but rather a reflection of some deeper problems in the relationship. That is why we don’t compartmentalize sex. We don’t isolate it or separate it from all the other parts of our lives.

A healthy sex life is a by product of tenderness, courtship, understanding, listening, sacrificing for one another, forgiving one another, deferring to one another.

It is not a reward for good behavior, but it is an expression of two hearts intertwined with each other. If there is distance relationally there will be distance physically.

What is our sex life saying to us today? What can you learn from the evaluation of your sex life?

God desires intimacy with us and He wants us to have intimacy with others and a unique level of intimacy with our spouses. A good question to ask ourselves is, how well do we do intimacy? If we are going allow sex to be a gauge, what is saying about our ability to experience intimacy. This is very important to God.

Each year the Israelites are known to have read the Song of Solomon before their most important religious celebration of the year, Passover and the reading of the Torah. Wow. The most important celebration for the Jewish nation begins with the reading of this very romantic book.

God wants to make sure that we remember that our relationship with Him isn’t about ritual, regulations and routine, but one of joyous intimacy and passion and deep love and affection for Him….because that is exactly what he has for us!

The last section of chapter 8 is titled The glory of sex and Timothy Keller says Sex is Glorious. The last sentence of the whole book is

“It’s the most estatic, breathtaking, daring, scarcely-to-be-imagined look at the glory that is our future.” Talking about the glory of intimacy with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, the Trinity for all eternity.

Married Couples Application: I wonder if an application for married couples is to schedule some covenant renewal ceremonies into your weekly schedule. A covenant needs reminders. God would have his people periodically engage in “covenant renewal ceremonies”. They would read portions of scriptures together, the Torah, the Promises of God. These were ways to renew the commitment and rekindle the heart and restore intimacy.

This applies to the covenant of our marriages. There are additional ways to rekindle your covenant with your spouse than just sex. But there is no substitute for sex.

A Los Angeles Times article reported that boosting frequency of sex from once a month to once a week brings as much happiness as an extra $50,000 dollars a year.

Other research tells us that married couples with a strong sex life have a stronger marriage and greater fulfillment.

Schedule date nights into your marriage. Maybe you call it a date night, or Mommy/Daddy time or your very own “Field Trip.”

While on a date night rate your nakedness with one another in light of Genesis 2:25  “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. Intimacy isn’t something you wait for to see if it happens, it is something you intentionally seek, invest and pursue. Even when you don’t feel like it. 

Application for Singles: Schedule a date with God and journal about your intimacy with Him. Are you intimate with God? Are you close to God? Would you like to be closer?