Sunday, June 21, 2015
Pastor Joe Wittwer
The Sex Talks
Happy Father’s Day! It’s Father’s Day and we’re talking about sex—every dad’s dream!
Welcome to the fifth and final part of “The Sex Talks.” I thought about saying that this is the climax of our series, but I would never do that! Today, we’re talking about redeemed sex. What do I mean by that? The word “redeemed” means “to buy back.” If you pawn something and later buy it back, you have “redeemed” it. It also means, “to free from what harms; to free from captivity by the payment of a ransom, or to free from blame or debt.” Redeem: to buy back, or to free from what harmed you or held you captive.
1 Peter 1:18–19 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
Jesus has redeemed us from our old empty way of life; He bought us back and set us free, not with money, but at the price of His own life. Here’s why.
In the opening chapters of the Bible, we read that God created us for good. God created us in His image, male and female, and said, “It is very good.” We were made for relationships: with God and with each other.
But God’s good world is a mess, starting with me! How did that happen? In Genesis 3, the story heads south. Human beings rebelled against God and were damaged by evil. We, and everything around us, became disordered. What God meant for good was broken and damaged. This is the Christian explanation for the mess we see all around us and inside us. When you see evil and brokenness and disorder, this is not what God intended. This is what we have made of the world and ourselves.
But God loves us too much to let the story end there. He sent Jesus to redeem us and to restore us for better. In His life, Jesus showed us what we were meant to be. In His death, Jesus absorbed all our evil and the punishment we deserved. And in His resurrection, Jesus conquered death and evil and made possible a new life for us, a life lived in His resurrection power.
We were created for good.
We were damaged by evil.
We are being restored to better.
This is what we mean when we say Jesus redeemed us. He has redeemed every part of us, including our sexuality.
The most fundamental Christian confession is “Jesus is Lord.” He is God, and He is my Lord, my Leader. I believe in Him, and I follow Him. And as I believe and follow, He changes me in every area of my life.
The Big Idea: Jesus is Lord. He is redeeming us—every part of us, including our sexuality—as we follow His lead.
I want to wrap up this series by talking about redeeming sex in four areas:
- In our culture.
- In you.
- In your marriage.
- In your family. I want to finish with a charge for the dads.
- Redeeming sex in our culture.
After last Sunday’s message, several people talked with me and expressed concern about the culture war over sex. Our culture’s values are changing at warp speed; traditional values and mores are under assault and being abandoned. Some groups and individuals make no secret that their goal is to deconstruct traditional notions of gender, sexuality and marriage. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission published this on their website: “We believe it is indispensable to deconstruct the binary sex/gender system that shapes the Western world so absolutely that in most cases it goes unnoticed. For ‘other sexualities to be possible’ it is indispensable and urgent that we stop governing ourselves by the absurd notion that only two possible body types exist, male and female, with only two genders inextricably linked to them, man and woman. (This will)…show us the path to a new paradigm that will allow as many bodies, sexualities and identities to exist as those living in this world might wish to have, with each one of them respected, desired, celebrated.” Why would they want to deconstruct gender? If there are no categories, then everyone and everything is equally ok. No categories = no right or wrong. They want everyone to be respected. It sounds like a prescription for equality; it’s a prescription for social and moral chaos.
Christians have always believed that God’s creative intention was two genders, male and female, and that marriage is one man, one woman, one flesh for a lifetime. We believe that these categories are God’s design and essential for human thriving.
So how do we respond to the culture wars about sex? Sex has become an idol, a god, in our culture. How can change that? Here are three important responses—we need all three.
Stand for the truth. I said last Sunday that we don’t have to be the moral police. Let me clarify that. I was addressing our relationships with our friends and neighbors, and saying that I am not responsible for correcting or fixing everyone around me. I point people to Jesus, and He makes the changes.
That doesn’t mean we don’t speak up when needed. For example, when someone verbalizes values or morals that differ from Scripture, I can and should speak up, and “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). We don’t have to shout. I like the line that says, “You can be right but wrong at the top of your voice.” We don’t have to shout, but we have to be reasonable and clear, and speak the truth in love.
And when ideas are being debated in the public forum, whether civil or political, it is important that our voices are heard. Too often we have either been silent or shrill, and neither has served us well. When sexual morals or social values are being publicly debated, we must learn how to be part of discussion, and stand for the truth as we understand it.
ILL: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church in Germany before and during World War 2 are a great example. The state church in Germany caved in to the culture as it was shaped by the Nazi party, and the church became an arm of the state in its systematic persecution of Jews. Bonhoeffer and others spoke up repeatedly and publicly, calling the church to be a witness to the truth, and challenging the Nazi party line. They split from the state church, refusing to bow to either theological or political pressure. They stood for the truth—at high cost, sometimes, the cost of their lives.
Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church was the moral conscience of Germany in a day when everyone else caved in. Similar battles are being fought today in the culture war over sex. Some Christian denominations have abandoned biblical morals and bent the knee to our culture; some churches have withdrawn from those denominations and formed new ones—their version of the Confessing Church, to stand for the truth. First, don’t be afraid to stand for the truth.
Live the truth. It’s not enough to just speak the truth; we have to live it. We sacrifice our moral authority when we talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. When Christians shriek at gay and lesbian people, while they themselves are having sex outside of marriage, or divorcing without Biblical cause, they sound like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. We must take the log out of our own eye first. We must live the truth as well as speak it or we sacrifice our moral authority. We must talk the talk…and walk the walk.
Love everyone always. Jesus made it clear that our most important job is to love God with all we’ve got, and to love our neighbor as ourselves, and He extended that to include loving our enemies. We’re to treat others as we want to be treated. This the Great Commandment and the Golden Rule, and whatever morals and values we defend, if we do it without love, we are a noisy gong or a clanging symbol. We’re just irritating noise! We must stand for truth and live the truth, and do it with love. Love everyone always.
ILL: Jerry Falwell was a very famous conservative Baptist pastor, leader of the Moral Majority and founder of Liberty University. Larry Flynt was a porn king, the publisher of Hustler magazine. In 1983, Falwell had sued Flynt in a famous case that made it all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1997, these two, the preacher and the pornographer publicly debated each other about sexual morals and porn. At the time of this debate, these two epitomized the polar opposites of the culture war about sex. Jerry’s son, Jonathan traveled with his dad to Florida where Falwell was debating Flynt. Jonathan recalls:
Mr. Flynt asked my dad if we could give him a ride back to Lynchburg in my dad’s private jet. Dad said yes. As we flew to Virginia, I sat across from dad and Mr. Flynt as they had a long conversation about sports, food, politics and other ordinary topics. I was amazed and bewildered because they kept talking like old friends. After we dropped off Mr. Flynt in Lynchburg, I asked dad, “How could you carry on a conversation with Larry Flynt as if you guys were lifelong buddies? Dad, he’s the exact opposite of everything you believe in; he does all of the things you preach against; and yet you were treating him like a member of your church. Why?”
Dad’s response changed my whole outlook on ministry. “Jonathan,” he said, “there’s going to be a day when Larry is hurting and lonely, and he’ll be looking for help and guidance. He is going to pick up the phone and call someone who can help him. I want to earn the right to be that phone call!”
Stand for the truth.
Live the truth.
Love everyone always.
That’s our best chance to redeem sex in our culture.
- Redeeming sex in you.
All of us are broken and need Jesus to redeem and restore us. We’re broken in different ways. My problem may not be yours, or yours mine. But we all need Jesus to be whole. Here’s the good news:
The resurrected Jesus changes everything! He defeated death, so I think He can handle whatever you’re facing. If Jesus is alive, as we believe He is, there is nothing in my life that He can’t redeem and change and make whole. Come to Jesus just as you are; bring your brokenness to the resurrected Lord. “You are Lord and You are alive. Nothing is too hard for You. Here is my life: make me new. Make me what You want me to be.”
Sexual fulfillment begins when Jesus starts redeeming your sexuality. It starts with wholeness in you. So bring your brokenness to Jesus.
- Adultery. In John 8, Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery, and offered her a new life. Come to Jesus—let Him help you out of adultery and into a healthy relationship.
- Sex before marriage. If you are currently sleeping with someone without being married, Jesus wants something better for you. Come to Jesus and let Him help you out of that and heal you.
- Pornography. If you are looking at porn and masturbating, you are reducing sex to a selfish act of personal gratification. Jesus wants better for you. Come to Jesus and let Him redeem you and change you.
- Lust. If you find yourself overcome by lust, come to Jesus and He will help you win that battle. 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.” Jesus can empower you to keep the birds from building nests.
- Promiscuity. If you have been engaged in multiple sexual relationships, and are sleeping around, Jesus wants better for you. He wants you to know the joy and fulfillment that come from faithfulness and commitment. Come to Jesus.
- Gay sex. If you are engaged in a gay sexual relationship, Jesus wants better for you too. Come to Jesus, and let Him redeem and restore you.
Whatever your brokenness—and there’s more that I haven’t named—come to Jesus as you are and let Him help you and heal you. But it’s got to start with you. Until you let Jesus redeem your sexuality, you don’t have much to say to the culture, and the next two points will be out of reach.
- Redeeming sex in your marriage.
Throughout this series, we’ve said that God made sex for marriage. It is designed to express love between a husband and wife, bring pleasure to both, and produce children. Notice that procreation is third, because if a couple is unable to conceive, or is simply past the age of childbearing, sex still expresses love and brings pleasure.
But even in marriage, sex isn’t always good. There can be problems—remember we’re all broken and disordered, married people included. Our sinful human natures have messed up sex in marriage too.
- Married people are selfish and some use sex purely for their own pleasure with no thought of their partner.
- Some married people use sex as a weapon, withholding it to punish their partner.
- Some have used pornography to such a degree that they have no desire for their spouse, are unable to be aroused by their partner, or demand their partner to do kinky things to turn them on.
- I’ve talked with couples who grew bored with each other, and turned to group sex.
There are lots of ways to be broken.
We need Jesus to redeem sex in our marriage. We need Jesus to be Lord of our sex lives. I believe that when our marriages are led and empowered by Jesus, the sex will be great. How does Jesus redeem sex in marriage? Your marriage will work best when there is a Christ-centered mutuality. Jesus calls us both—husband and wife—to be selfless and other-centered.
1 Corinthians 7:1–5 Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except perhaps 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.
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! I slip into bed at night and tell Laina, “Honey, I’m here and I’m reporting for duty!”
I hope you noticed the mutuality in this passage: both husband and wife are to fulfill their marital duty to each other; both husband and wife do not have authority over their bodies but are to yield to their spouse. In other words, husbands and wives are each to put the other ahead of themselves. We are called to love and serve each other. Anyone who uses these verses to demand sex from a spouse is missing the point. The purpose of sex in marriage is to bring the other pleasure, to express love to the other. It’s about the other, not just me. When our highest desire is to please the other, sex is immeasurably deepened and enriched.
The point of these verses is that we should meet the needs of our spouse, put them first. When sex becomes selfish, when it’s all about you satisfying your needs, it destroys the very satisfaction you seek. Putting the other person first, trying to meet their needs, always makes it better. When it’s selfish, you’re not loving your spouse; you’re just using your spouse to love yourself, and that is not a satisfying relationship.
This mutuality is also reflected in the other passage on your outline, Ephesians 5:21-33, which tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and wives are to respect their husbands, and yield to them as the church does to Christ. While there is no reference to sex in this passage, this Christ-centered mutuality is offered as the key to marital fulfillment. The husband is to put the wife ahead of himself, sacrificing himself for her, just as Jesus put us ahead of himself by giving his life for us. The wife is to put her husband ahead of herself, yielding to his leadership just as the church follows Jesus.
Married couples, do you want to spice up your sex life? Try this: make Jesus the Lord of your marriage and your sex life. Follow His lead, and put your spouse ahead of yourself—be other-centered instead of self-centered. Do it all day long, and in bed, and your sex life will get better and better—for both of you!
- Redeeming sex in your family.
I want to finish by talking to moms and dads, especially dads. Our culture has made sex an idol. How do we help our kids dethrone the sex idol and live with sexual purity and fulfillment?
The best thing Laina and I did was to give our kids Jesus. We passed on a genuine love for God, a genuine faith in Jesus that resulted in strong values and the courage and strength to live them out. Here is what we did and what I recommend you do.
First, you live it. This is first and most important. Faith in God, love for God is more caught than taught. If you’re on fire, they’ll probably catch fire too. In fact, your kids will probably catch what you have…whatever it is, good or bad. Think about that. Do you want your kids to be like you? To live like you? Because the chances are, they will. So if you want your kids to love God, you must love Him. If you want your kids to be pure sexually, you must be. If you want your kids to follow Jesus, you must follow Him. With all your heart!
Everyone knows that actions speak louder than words. You can preach it all you want, but if you don’t live it, your kids will follow your actions more than words. So we lived it. We lived our faith and our kids—all adults now—caught it.
- We lived our faith by personally spending time with Jesus—PBJ time—praying, reading the Bible, journaling. Our kids do the same.
- We lived our faith by making church a priority—we’re here every week—it wasn’t optional or up for debate, and we didn’t let other things trump it. Our kids do the same.
- We lived our faith in our marriage. Laina and I have tried to love and respect each other as God wants. Our kids have watched that, and they’re doing the same.
- We lived our faith in the way we handled our failures. When we failed, we owned up and asked them to forgive us. Our kids are doing the same.
- We lived our faith in the way we treated others. We put a high value on people, and treated them with love and respect and kindness. Our kids do the same.
- We lived our faith in the way we shared it with others. Our kids watched and they do the same. I love to hear them tell stories of friends from work or school that they’ve shared with and brought to church.
- We lived our faith with our money, giving God the first ten percent, and being generous with the poor and needy. Our kids do the same.
I’m not saying we lived it perfectly—no one but Noel does that. But we lived it genuinely. And our kids caught it. First, you live it.
Second, you teach it. We talked about Jesus, the Bible, our faith, and what it means to live it out…a lot. We didn’t preach; we just talked about it, naturally.
Deuteronomy 6:7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.
We did that. We talked about what God’s word says at home, and in the car, and when we went to bed and when we got up. For years, when the kids were little, we read the Bible or told Bible stories at night as we tucked them in. We prayed together. And we taught them to pray. We talked about Jesus…a lot.
Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. You’ve got to teach them—live it first, but then you’ve got to teach them what it means to know and follow Jesus.
Proverbs 22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
When do you start training or teaching? When they’re children. Train a child. Some parents say, “I don’t want to force religion on my child; I’ll let my child grow up and make his own decision.” You don’t do that with education: “I don’t want to force education on my child. I’ll let him grow up and decide if he wants to go to school.” You don’t do that with behavior: “I don’t want to force my child to obey. I’ll let him grow up and decide if he wants to behave.” And you shouldn’t do it with faith. The word “train” is sometimes translated “start”. “Start a child in the way he should go.” From their earliest days, we taught them to follow Jesus. We started them out on the right path.
First you live it, second you teach it.
Third, you need help. What we gave our kids was reinforced and supported by many people. I want to give props to:
- Our Adventureland staff and volunteers who loved and taught our kids from the cradle to the fifth grade! You made church fun for them. They loved coming to church because of you!
- All the junior and senior high youth ministry staff and volunteers who loved my kids, taught them, led their small groups, and hung out with them. You were the reinforcements we needed when the battle heated up!
- All the families in our church who were extra parents to our kids and whose kids were best friends with ours. Your example and your kids’ friendships helped our kids stay on the way. It takes a village…
- Our extended families—to Laina’s dad and my mom, to our sisters and brothers (all the aunties and uncles) and the cousins—whose prayers and love and acceptance made it easier for our kids to follow Jesus!
- And a special shout out to Laina’s dad, Pastor Noel, who has lived with us for the last 25 years and been more than a grandpa. He’s been a father in the faith to us, and our kids know what it means to follow Jesus because they’ve watched him. I wish every family had a Noel.
Moms and dads, do you want your kids to grow up with good sexual values? They need to know and follow Jesus. For that to happen, you need to live it and teach it, and you need help. I learned recently that half of the children who came to Adventureland last year were checked in 5 times or less. Those kids are not getting much Jesus.
Moms and dads, I’m calling on you to step up and lead your family—but I really want to lean on the dads today. It’s Father’s Day, and the best thing you could do as a dad is to live a Jesus-is-Lord life. A Jesus-led life. Be a dad who models Jesus-led living, and who models redeemed sexuality. It’s the best gift you can give your family.
 Quoted in Understanding Gender Dysphoria, by Dr. Mark Yarhouse, IVP, 2015, pg. 50-51