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Jul 22, 2018

#7 - Sexual Freedom or Sexual Wilderness?

Passage: 1 Corinthians 6:9-7:16

Preacher: John Huizinga

Series: When You Need More Than a Band-Aid

Category: Not By Chance But By His Fatherly Hand

Keywords: delight, desire, homosexuality, love, marriage, sex, sexuality

Summary:

When You Need More Than a Band-Aid: All Things Come To Us Not By Chance But By Our Father’s Hand, Part 7: Sexual Freedom or a Sexual Wilderness? This should be a joyful subject. After all, sexuality is a good gift of our Creator God. But if there is one thing that is true today about being male or female is that there is confusion, fear, and a sense of being lost because something is lost when we attempt to talk about gender and sexuality. 1 Corinthians 6 & 7 remind us that our Creator and Redeemer is sovereign over even our sexual identity and practice. And this divine goodness allows us to honor the Lord with our bodies. Chuck DeGroat, writing in The Banner, says, “The church needs to talk. And we need to talk about us—not them, not those people, not about selling wedding cakes to gay couples or about the transgender student at school. We need to talk about sex and intimacy, about shame and loneliness, about addiction and assault. Our teenagers need to talk. Our singles need to talk. Those in lifeless marriages need to talk. If the church cannot host the complexity of this hard conversation, then it cannot honor the breadth of its sacred canon, with stories of rape and misogyny, adultery and addiction, oppression and abandonment, with a love poem right smack dab in the middle of it.” Our Contemporary Testimony describes our current struggles as males and females today this way: Sexuality is disordered in our fallen world—brokenness, abuse, pornography, and loneliness are the result—but Christ's renewing work gives hope for order and healing and surrounds suffering persons with compassionate community. So that’s where we hope to find ourselves after honestly submitting to and receiving God’s Word.

Detail:

Sexuality is a good gift from our Creator God.

But if there is one thing that is true today

about being male or female

is that there is confusion, fear,

and a sense of being lost

when it comes to how we are to relate together

in a healthy, holy sexual way.

Even in the Apostle Paul’s day there was great hurt, pain and question regarding

how we conduct ourselves, married or single,

straight or gay, young or old.

For you children and teens

you may wonder what we are talking about today. And that’s okay, because godly, holy love

is best awakened in its proper time

(Song of Songs 2:7 says -  ‘Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.’ That is, until its fitting time)

 

But if there’s one thing

we should take with us this morning

it is the grace and truth that God’s Word even today

-even for you-

has a formative say regarding our sexuality.

The Bible is not silent on these matters

so we shouldn’t be.

The Bible is not silent on these matters

reminding us that a place with no fences

is not a place of freedom, but a wilderness.

 

I won’t be able to say everything about everything

regarding sex and its beauty and its abuses,

about marriage and divorce,

or about being single when you don’t want to be,

nor will I be able to respond

to every hurt or confusion that

you or I have ever suffered

or sinned against

or simply have been naïve about.

But what you or I think doesn’t matter.

The LORD has made us for covenant companionship

and to glorify God with our bodies,

and each one of us will stand before

the judgment seat.

What matters most is that we apply

the grace and truth of scripture to

even our sexual lives, choices, and sufferings, too.

 

This wide-ranging passage of Scripture

addresses everything from singleness to marriage,

it addresses homosexuality, divorce,

even sexual desire and practice.

The context is not just the abuse of God’s gift,

but more the restoration and redemption

of our sexual desire and behavior.

Believers in Christ are redeemed to be

the salt of the earth and the light of the world,

not to follow the dark and confused way

that today says your sexual practice is up to you.

 

To help us understand all this today

keep three words in mind thru the message:

conflict, confession, and confidence.

There is conflict between human desire

and God’s desire.

Confession between husbands and wives,

and men and women,

before the Lord God,

where we have abused God’s gift

will open our hearts and lives

to God’s merciful restoration.

So that in grace and forgiveness,

not selfish assertion and judgment,

we may live confidently assured

of God’s love,

knowing the Lord has our best in mind

when we trust his way.

Even when our desires aren’t fulfilled

by today’s measure.

 

Christian novelist and former Wheaton College professor Larry Woiwode tells this episode:

As a young boy, sitting in church during a sermon

on this passage in 1st Corinthians,

he heard the preacher in what seemed like anger say:

“Does that mean, wives,

that you must submit to him

when he asks you to go to bed with him? YES!”

Larry remembers:

With the fervor of his yes

I felt my mother next to me stir in the pew, uneasy, then my father shift on my other side,

while I experienced at their center

my first faint stirrings of sexual intimation –

or whatever rough secret it was

they shared in their bedroom:

scripture had been applied.

 

That is what is most surprising in our verses

from 1st Corinthians 6-7 today.

I didn’t pick and choose verses to skip over

difficult sentences.

Rather, we read from a long passage to illustrate

the length that the Bible goes

to speak about all these matters.

 

It would have been surprising to the Corinthians

that the triune God had the command and say

over their sexual lives and practices.

They thought they had figured it out themselves

and that how they behaved was up to them.

It is the same for us today,

more than we even realize, I fear.

We are so steeped in the assumption that

my gender, my sexuality, my lifestyle

are all my choices, and up to me.

And this is reinforced every day

in the movies, TV, internet practices, music,

smartphone use, news stories and literature . . .

can we even wonder for a moment

whether I am made to glorify God

with my body,

so I am accountable to God as a steward

even of my sexuality?

To be holy means to live differently

simply because God has said so.

 

This is accented right away in chapter 6:

9 . . .  Do not be deceived:

Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters

nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men

10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards

nor slanderers nor swindlers

will inherit the kingdom of God.

 

There’s conflict here,

according to God’s revelation

there are sexual sins.

This is important to take to heart

because again we are steeped in assumptions

today that nothing is forbidden,

nothing is out of bounds

when it comes to my sexual fulfillment or practice.

Notice that sexual sins are listed alongside

other sins in order to say

God is sovereign over our sexuality, too.

We are not free to do whatever we want

or excuse our behavior and choices

in order to justify ourselves.

Nor are we abandoned to have to find our own way.

Knowing this, trusting Jesus

and living by his holy measure

is for our good, says Scripture.

The motivation is to ‘inherit the kingdom of God.’

 

Now when we read that phrase

we might think right away

about heaven and eternal life.

But inheriting the kingdom of God

is about today as well as tomorrow,

God’s will being done on earth

as it is in heaven.

So Scripture is revealing to us that

when we transgress God’s boundaries

we lose what we are reaching for.

And that the Creator and Provider

has ordered even our sexual practices

for our benefit,

there’s where true freedom is found.

This is our confession,

as many in Corinth had experienced:

11 And that is what some of you were.

But you were washed, you were sanctified,

you were justified

in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ

and by the Spirit of our God.

 

Health, hope, and joy come from God,

even when and if we aren’t sexually

free and fulfilled according to today’s standards.

If you have been shamed,

or carry guilt,

or are in pain and sorrow

over what you have done

or what has been done to you

or what you have lost,

hear the invitation for healing

and for a new life.

God’s word on sex is not to cut you down

but in order to bring new life, love and joy.

 

Can this help us talk about the elephant in the room?

I’m sure that one phrase in our text jumped out at you:

“. . . do not be deceived: neither . . . men who have sex with me . . . will inherit the kingdom of God . . .”

Can we confess anything about homosexuality today

that is helpful and a blessing?

I know many Christians have said

the wrong things about it,

or have said things in judgmental and spiteful

and divisive and demeaning ways,

mirroring some in our society

rather than imitating Christ.

And so in this conflict

we must exercise confession.

But this doesn’t mean all Christians

and all churches have acted this way,

nor does it mean

nothing further should be said.

We are all looking for wisdom.

And Jesus is the wisdom of God.

That’s what we ultimately wrestle with:

taking to heart what God has revealed

because Jesus gives us the word of life.

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter

what my opinion is,

or what you think about it,

or whether you support your friend

or what you understand the church

has said to you about it all.

We all will stand before the judgment seat of God

and so what matters is how we have applied

the scriptures to not only this

but all our behavior and choices,

thoughts, words, and deeds.

This is what we must help provide for

one another,

a holy, helpful wrestling with scripture.

So that the mercy and grace of the cross,

and the hope of resurrection become

the foundation for the way we live.

 

You may not know who Rosaria Butterfield is,

or if you do you may appreciate her

or you may dismiss her experience.

But I listen to her because she has been with God

where I have not been,

having come to Jesus as her Savior and Lord

after choosing an LGTB lifestyle.

Her story is also one of

conflict, confession, and confidence.

She says,

We have all failed miserably

at loving fellow image bearers

who identify as part of the LGBT community—

fellow image bearers who are deceived by sin

and deceived by a hateful world . . .

we often have failed to offer loving relationships

and open doors to our homes and hearts,

openness so unhindered

that we are as strong in loving relationship

as we are in the words we wield.

We also have failed to discern

the true nature of the Christian doctrine of sin.

For when we advocate for laws and policies

that bless the relationships that God calls sin,

we are acting as though we think ourselves

more merciful than God is.

 

To be clear,

I was not converted out of homosexuality.

I was converted out of unbelief.

I didn’t swap out a lifestyle.

I died to a life I loved.

Conversion to Christ made me face

the question squarely:

did my lesbianism reflect who I am

(which is what I believed in 1999),

or did my lesbianism distort who I am

through the fall of Adam?

I learned through conversion

that when something feels right and good

and real and necessary—

but stands against God’s Word—

this reveals the particular way

Adam’s sin marks my life.

Our sin natures deceive us.

Sin’s deception isn’t just “out there”;

it’s also deep in the caverns of our hearts.

 

How I feel does not tell me who I am.

Only God can tell me who I am,

because he made me and takes care of me.

I only know who I really am

when the Bible becomes my lens for self-reflection, and when the blood of Christ

so powerfully pumps my heart whole

that I can deny myself,

take up the cross, and follow him.

There is no good will

between the cross and the unconverted person.

The cross is ruthless.

To take up your cross means

that you are going to die.

As A. W. Tozer has said,

to carry a cross means you are walking away,

and you are never coming back.

The cross symbolizes what it means to die to self.

We die so that we can be born again

in and through Jesus,

by repenting of our sin

(even the unchosen ones)

and putting our faith in Jesus,

the author and finisher of our salvation.

The supernatural power

that comes with being born again

means that where I once had a single desire—

one that says if it feels good,

it must be who I really am—

I now have twin desires that war within me:

“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh,

for these are opposed to each other,

to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Gal. 5:17).

And this war doesn’t end until Glory.

Victory over sin means

we have Christ’s company in the battle . . .

-           Rosaria Butterfield

 

Is that everything that needs to be said

on the subject?

No, but it is something that needs to be added

to our discerning conversations together,

among friends and family, in the church,

even personally before the Lord ourselves.

And her words apply gay or straight,

single or married,

settled or struggling in our gender.

 

Her story amplifies what we teach here

in the Christian Reformed Church:

that having a homosexual orientation itself

is not sin,

what matters is how we obey God.

Scripture doesn’t say a lot about homosexuality

but what it does say is that practicing it

does not glorify God nor bless the person,

for ordered sexuality belongs

in the marriage of one man to one woman.

 

Our passage today reminds us though

that the church is to welcome in forgiveness

and in fellowship those so orientated.

For each and all of us need a spiritual family,

we need deep and abiding companionship

and holy friendships,

and the church has not done enough to make

this a gracious place in this regard.

 

Can homosexuals be members

of the Christian church?

Yes, they already are,

and like all believers,

they must reshape their identity

in conformity with the gospel.

Too often, the perception of the church

is that Christians are more concerned

about having the right position on homosexuality than loving and serving

our gay and lesbian friends and neighbors.

 

We apply the same revelation when we are single

and in our marriages.

And again, because God is good,

and the Lord seeks to protect his good gifts

of being male and female,

the gifts of marriage, and of our sexuality,

we can’t not know that pre-marital

and extra-marital sexual relations,

that engaging in pornography,

that being abusive toward a spouse or child,

these things don’t fulfill sexual desire,

but distort it.

 

This information comes from Love and Respect:

When we surveyed a 1,000 people

who had had premarital sex

with the partner they eventually married,

we found that the degree of sexual involvement directly correlated

with dissatisfaction in communication.

The more sexually involved the couple was

prior to marriage, the more they now feel:

disregarded in their views and opinion

by their spouse,

judged by their spouse,

controlled by the spouse,

interrupted when talking to their spouse.

Likewise, the more sexually involved they were before marriage, the less they feel:

their spouse makes time for them

and cherishes them,

they can calmly discuss something in the marriage,

they can share anything with each other,

they share a deep sense of trust and understanding in the relationship,

they resolve their problems quickly.

 

This is important to hear

because I know the growing accepted norm today

is to live together before getting married.

Maybe you see it among friends,

maybe in your family,

and it begins to be the way things are,

so you think maybe that’s what you’ll do, too.

And more than likely you will even feel pressured

to do this . . . at least some of you will.

And if you resist, whether engaging in

pre-marital relationships

or resist living together before marriage,

no doubt you will be judged for that stance,

or even mocked by some,

or said to be naïve,

or even see a relationship break because

you said no and took a stand.

But we’ve said it is the Lord’s way

that brings us a healthy and whole sexuality.

We can trust that Jesus has our best in mind

in calling us to follow him.

More, your friends and our communities

are looking for those who are confident

in their choices and way of life.

So even tho you may feel out of step,

out of touch with where your circle of friends is at

you can be confident in what our Heavenly Father

has commanded

because his will for you is love.

 

In the case of sexual addiction

and porn consumption,

a growing list of scientists

show us pornography harms

not only those who use it, but so many more:

Porn erases human dignity.

Porn changes our brains into thinking

people are to be used for my own benefit.

Porn preys on the vulnerable (including children)

and by design or accident

incites sex slavery and human trafficking.

Porn rewires human brains

and porn users show all the common markers

of addiction.

 

Our passage seeks to awaken our hearts and minds

where our passions and desires have been changed

and not for the better by what is becoming

normal and accepted around us.

Paul quotes common Corinthians sayings:

12 – “I have the right to do anything’

13 – ‘Food for the stomach and the stomach for food’

This was the Corinthian assumption

that when I follow my desires

and exercise my choices I am living well

and I am not outside of God’s will.

But Paul counters with the reality of Christ:

his resurrection and his Lordship.

He is our master.

But when we choose our own way,

those choices begin to shape us:

what we do sexually does something to us.

But Jesus brings the hope of resurrection.

Our bodies will be raised.

So it matters how we choose to live,

and a choice to obey the Lord

will also shape us, forming us more like Christ.

 

The scriptural response is not to double down on law.

Judging one another is not the solution.

The scriptural response is to reveal

that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.

Our identity is in Christ and we belong to him,

and that includes our bodies,

which are given us to glorify God.

 

And then the Apostle Paul reveals more:

the Bible teaches that desire is a good gift from God.

Again, he starts by quoting a common Corinthian saying of the day,

‘It is good for a man

not to have sexual relations with a woman.’

No doubt there were those who

thought the way to deal with all this

was to declare desire bad and avoid it.

But the Holy Spirit doesn’t go there.

Desire is not bad, desire is God-given.

But our desires have been corrupted by sin.

So desire must be made holy

by the counsel of the Holy Spirit

thru habits and practices that apply God’s Word.

 

So, we are guided to developing holy desires

by a servant attitude and a mutual care

within the marriage relationship:

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.

 

There is no talk here about procreation

as the first reason or basis for marriage,

but instead fulfilling holy desire.

The same word is spoken to both

husband and wife.

This is a shared responsibility

and a mutual togetherness.

This was revolutionary and still is today.

That love is about giving, not taking or getting.

That love and marriage go together.

That there is a holy, mutual

respect and honor in marriage.

This is a healing word for husbands and wives.

A word to apply together consistently

in your marriage,

for you will go thru different seasons

in your marriage that will challenge

both the expression of and maturing of

your desire for one another.

You will have to share together

thru conflict and in confession

because your home life will go thru

different situations and circumstances:

newly married,

then it will be different if the Lord

blesses you with children,

it will be different again

if you have different work schedules,

or if you face some trouble or some illness.

And then as you get older and our bodies change.

 

Paul uses the word ‘yield.’

When we think of yield

we may think first about caution,

and maybe that’s not a bad thing.

Caution because we are to protect

the image of God in one another,

and keep one another safe, even sexually.

But yield can also mean a harvest and profit,

so there is a good yield,

a good harvest in our lives

when we yearn for God’s design

and trust his providence.

But here the primary meaning of the word

is to grant or defer to the other in a loving way,

 a mutual submission

and careful reception of delight.

This yielding also blesses our community.

Because all of us are called

to such mutual honor and respect

whether we are married or single

or single again or struggling with our orientation

or even struggling in our marriage.

Parents, one of the great gifts

you can give your children

is a healthy marriage.

They are watching covenant in action,

they are looking for a confident trust,

do mom and dad apply or ignore scripture.

 

All this motivates us to make our church

as safe a place as we can for our children.

This whole passage is written in response to abuse.

Abuse is all around us,

perhaps you have been hurt in this way.

Many suffer silently.

So we must do all we can

to protect against it

and provide for a healing and safe fellowship.

 

Our Safe Church ministry recommends

the Circle of Grace curriculum

to add to our regular lessons.

It’s goal is to help to form and educate

children and youth

about the value of positive relationships

with God and others.

The Circle of Grace curriculum

teaches godly confidence to children and youth

in how to identify and maintain appropriate physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual boundaries; recognize when boundary violations

are about to occur;

and demonstrate how to take action

when boundaries are threatened or violated.

It is designed to be age appropriate.

On our newsletter is a link

to some more information.

This is a good response for our day

and sends a good message that the church

is guarding the image of God in the vulnerable.

It will be good to get feedback from you on this.

 

For we must find our way to talk about these things

within the fellowship of a spiritual community.

It’s talked about everywhere else but here,

where we have been given wisdom

and the revelation of our Creator and Redeemer.

Chuck DeGroat, writing in The Banner, says,

The church needs to talk.

And we need to talk about us—

not them, not those people,

not about selling wedding cakes to gay couples

or about the transgender student at school.

We need to talk about sex and intimacy,

about shame and loneliness,

about addiction and assault.

Our teenagers need to talk.

Our singles need to talk.

Those in lifeless marriages need to talk.

Those contemplating divorce need to talk.

 

Until we gain confidence in Christ

and in God’s grace

when it comes to sexual desire and practice.

Jesus is the Savior

and is Lord over even our sexuality.

This is good news in a broken world today.

 Even the feminist Bari Weiss complains

that in the name of freedom

we have only brought misery to one another.

 She confesses that all of the talk about sex

these days is about “consent and pain.”

“Whatever happened to intimacy,

love, and romance?” she asked.

 

We are all asking.

By confessing our conflict

to our Creator and Redeemer,

little by little we find a joyful confidence

to trust his living Word.

It is the Lord God who provides lasting answer,

God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

who is love,

and who created love,

and who redeems our love.