God's Glory In Our SexualityErwin W. Lutzer | March 14, 2010
Selected highlights from this sermon
Sexuality plays a part in what we believe about God. We’re sexual beings and our desires often control much of our lives. Therefore, we need to understand sexuality from God’s standpoint. Why? Our bodies are so important that they will be raised.
So why should we glorify God in our bodies? Because we are joined to Christ. We are members of His body. He is part of us. So any sexual experience outside the bonds of marriage is unholy and is forcing Jesus to be an unwilling partner in that relationship.
God created us, so He owns our bodies. God redeemed us with the blood of His Son, so He paid for us. We aren’t our own. Heed the words of Paul: flee immorality.
Male and female he created them. What a great idea, and in those words there is a wealth of knowledge regarding who we are and our self-perception, because always remember that femininity and masculinity go to the very heart of our identity. And there is no place in all the world where the glory of God and the wonder of God should be most clearly seen but that in the relationship between a man and a woman. We shall see today, however, that there is also no relationship against which we so chafe and (I must say) we often taint and corrode the glory of God.
Today we are going to talk about the glory of God in our sexuality because our passage says that we are to glorify God in our body, and what does that mean? Sexuality provides both the possibility of the greatest pleasure and also the greatest pain. It can be a tremendous burden or it can be a tremendous blessing, and usually it is one or the other because who we are as sexual beings and the desires that we have oftentimes control so much of our lives.
For example, certainly sexuality is the greatest challenge that we could ever have regarding our marriages. But it’s also true that sexuality plays a part in what we believe about God and what we don’t believe about Him. Why is it that so many college students go to college and lose their faith? Is it because the arguments against Christianity are so persuasive? In some instances, they may be that way, or at least appear to be that way, but the bottom line is the most persistent reason, I am sure, is because of immorality, because once you begin to become sexually active then you begin to construct an idea of God that fits your sexual morays. Recently I read a book entitled, The Making of an Atheist, and the subtitle is, How Immorality Determines Our Beliefs. It’s an excellent book, and it points out what people like Huxley said. He said, “The reason that we accepted evolution without proof is because we didn’t want a god to interfere with our sexual practices.” And so it is that oftentimes we construct an idea of God that fits exactly the kind of God we want because we want to do what we want to do, and especially in the relationship of sex.
Well, before we turn to our passage for today I want to remind you of some things that you might already know from the book of Genesis. The Bible says that God created man and Adam was able to walk with God in the midst of the Garden. What an opportunity and what a privilege, and yet in the midst of all the good things that God created, the Bible says that, “it is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helpmeet for him.”
So you know the story. Adam fell asleep and God removed his rib and He fashioned a woman and He called her woman for she came out of a man. When God created man and woman, what He did is He separated femininity out of masculinity. And having made that separation He also implanted within each of them a tremendous desire to come back into intimacy and unity with one another, and these desires within us are relentless. They are continuous and they constantly can become a means of great blessing, as I mentioned, or a tremendous burden. And so it is that we are sexual creatures from the top of our heads to the soles of our feet.
Now what is it that constitutes marriage? God says that man shall leave his father and his mother and they shall cleave to one another and they shall become one flesh, and by the way, the Bible says that they were naked and not ashamed. I suppose Eve is perhaps the only woman on Planet Earth who could honestly say to her husband, “I had nothing to wear.” (laughter) But notice this: God says, “They shall be one flesh,” and as Hebrew scholars like to point out, the word there for one ('echad) is the same word that is used for God when it says, “Hear oh Israel, the Lord our God is one.”
Here’s what God had in mind: that a woman created in the image of God and a man created in the image of God would come together in sexuality and become one flesh and mirror the Godhead. Just like God is plurality as well as individuality, just as there is unity but there is also plurality, in the very same way you have two people but they become one flesh metaphysically. They become one and God ties them together and a soul tie is developed as a result of this intimacy called the sexual relationship.
Now in order to be married you need two things. First of all, you need a covenant, and the covenant is a promise that you make publicly in the presence of God and before others that you are going to be true to one another, because sexuality functions best thin the confines of that commitment and covenant until death do us part. That’s where it is to be exercised. So you have a covenant and then the covenant is consummated through the sexual relationship and God pronounces them one, and what that means is not just one in body, not just one in mind, but also one in spirit, and God develops a soul tie between the two people.
Now sometimes you have people who say, “We don’t have a covenant but we’re living together because we plan to get married anyway.” It’s always amazing to me how people justify what they are doing, breaking God’s pattern, and in the end, you know, always, always you see the consequences because in the midst of that, mistrust is being developed and anger is being developed and all of those seeds are being developed which will crop up at some point in the marriage if the marriage happens. Oftentimes couples like that don’t even marry and they end up with somebody else and the consequences also are drastic, as we shall see in a moment.
I’m well aware that this message that I am preaching today is going to be like a bombshell in the lives of many of you, particularly if you are in an immoral relationship. So this is the purpose of this message today: First of all, it’s to give you knowledge so that we can see sexuality from God’s standpoint, which is absolutely critical (I’ll be sharing things with you today that you cannot learn in any secular textbook.) and furthermore and secondly to give you hope. If this message becomes uncomfortable I just want you to stay with us because at the end I will be giving you hope. I will not leave you in despair.
The passage of Scripture now, with that background, is 1 Corinthians 6 where the Apostle Paul talks about sexual immorality to the people at Corinth living in a sex-saturated culture, much like ours. In some respects it was worse, and maybe in some respects better because they didn’t have the Internet and television. But nonetheless it says in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful for me.” Paul is saying, “Yeah, but not all things are helpful.” Paul says, “All things are lawful for me but I will not be enslaved by anything. Food is meant for the stomach, and the stomach for food.”
Now you need to understand that Paul here is reiterating some of the common mantras that were chanted there in Corinth. The argument was this, that when I am hungry I eat and when I have sexual desires I fulfill them, but Paul says, “No, that’s not right.” He says, “There’s a big difference between your food and your stomach and your body (which he is referring to as the whole person). The body is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body, and God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.” And so what Paul is saying is that your body is so important it will be raised. How you treat it, and because sexuality goes to the heart of who you are, you’d better get this straight, and then he says in verse 15, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute?”
Why is it that we should glorify God in our bodies, as this text tells us to do? The first reason is it’s because of whom we are joined to. Now let me speak very plainly. If you are here today as a Christian and you are listening as a believer, and you’ve come to saving faith in Christ, you are joined to Jesus. The Bible says that we are in Him, He is in us, we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones, and because of that, it is not just that Jesus saved us. It’s that Jesus is a part of us. Jesus, therefore, is connected with us spiritually and metaphysically, and we need to understand that. And now what the Apostle Paul is saying which is very clear is simply this, and you need to follow it. The Apostle Paul is saying that if we are joined to Jesus (and we are) spiritually and metaphysically, if you had a sexual relationship outside of marriage (and he uses a prostitute as an example, and you need to get this), you are forcing Jesus to be an unwilling partner in this relationship. Imagine that. Here’s an unholy bed, an unholy relationship, and you as a believer are expecting Jesus, who is joined to you, to be involved at least at the level that you are, and He’s joined to you. No wonder He is so grieved. Paul says, “Would I take the member of Christ, you as a believer, and make him a member of a prostitute? Of course not.” Wow! Because of who we are joined to, and we are joined to Christ, the consequences are huge.
Notice also that now Paul talks about what the sexual relationship really is. I need to tell you that you can go through all the libraries of the world and you can study sexuality and you’ll never find the wisdom that is found here in God’s holy book. Listen to this: “Do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her for it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh.’” Wow! Here’s a relationship where there is no pretense of love. There is nothing in this relationship except mutual exploitation. Everybody knows that this is a transfer of money for a moment of pleasure. In that most degrading relationship God says the two of you have just been made one flesh. It’s not just that your bodies were joined together, but metaphysically and spiritually you were brought together and I have pronounced on you a soul tie and you are tied together. Do you realize the importance of sexuality here and what it really is, because remember the original intention was that it would bring together a man and a woman to mirror the glory of God, and the image of God? And now it is being misused and has messed everything up, but in the middle of this mess, the Apostle Paul says, “You’ve been joined to that person.”
This is what I call an unholy soul tie. Sometimes I refer to it as an alien bond. An alien bond means an illegitimate bond. Now if sex has that much power to bond two people together body, soul and spirit, imagine what happens now outside of marriage. Imagine the power, for example, of that first bond. It has a tremendous amount of power and might ultimately define you. This is a story that has happened ten thousand times where you have a young woman who is maybe saving herself for marriage. She gets talked into a relationship by her boyfriend who says, “It’s okay; it’ll just be our secret,” and after it happens she knows that she’s been defiled. She knows that her virginity has been lost. The boy has probably lost his long ago, and now as a result of that, all of the anticipation and the bonding that should take place to represent God have been messed up. So feeling defiled, what does she do, as one young lady told me? “I knew I was defiled so now it didn’t matter, and now she is tempted to spin into all kinds of different experiences sexually because, “What difference does it make? I’m not pure anymore anyway.” And so because that first bond has been broken (the first bond was illegitimate) it spirals off into all kinds of other experiences, which continue to snowball and be detrimental because God says, “You are one with this person.” And now, having been torn from him and torn from her, the two of them go on finding other bonds, because what they are still doing is trying to seek this unity. God implanted something within us that says this unity needs to be there in a marriage relationship, and the oneness (the intimacy) that they should have for marriage has been shattered, and now where do you go to find it? You go from bed to bed and from person to person.
As a matter of fact, this first relationship is so important that if you continue on, it can actually determine your sexuality. I’ve talked to a lot of young men involved in homosexuality and asked them how they got involved. Oftentimes it’s because an older man seduced them into the relationship and there they are living with the tension of both the exhilaration of it all and the shame of it all and the secrecy of it all, and they begin to think and dream and continue the relationship that has been begun. In fact, I remember reading a book about homosexuality that says anyone of us by the age of fourteen could have been misled into the homosexual lifestyle if we had had the right experiences with the right person. The power of sexuality!
Furthermore, when you live immorally and you are bonded to all these different people, when it comes time to be married and finally have an exclusive commitment to someone, you can understand how difficult it is to maintain that commitment. Let me speak to you just casually and directly today. Here’s somebody who lived immorally. He is marrying somebody who lived immorally. They’ve got all of these soul ties in their mind. The relationship that God intended has been put together and then broken, put together and then broken, put together and then broken. Now we bring them to the altar, and we all look at the beautiful bride and we look at the handsome groom and we expect them to live happily ever after, and they’ve got all kinds of junk swirling in their memories and in their minds. It’s not as if there is no hope for them, because there is. That’s why I am encouraging you to stay till the end of the message, but you see, when you begin to mess with this matter of sexuality, the consequences always dog you.
So, the Apostle Paul is saying, “One reason why it is so important for us to be morally pure is because of who we are joined to.” We are joined to Christ. Don’t take Christ into an unholy bed with you as an unwilling partner having to put up with what you are doing as a believer. So that’s number one.
Number two, notice who the Apostle Paul says indwells us. Notice what the text has to say: “And do you not know that he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him? Flee immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside of the body but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?” You know, in the Old Testament God had His temple and He dwelt there in that temple and there were two sections to it. There was the larger courtyard that in Greek was known as the hieron, and then the inner sanctum–the Holy of Holies (the Greek word is naos), and that’s the word that is used here. He says, “Do you not know that your body contains the Holy of Holies (because God is dwelling there?” And because God is dwelling there, don’t grieve the blessed Holy Spirit of God who has taken residence in your mind and in your heart and in your body. Don’t put the Holy Spirit through that kind of grief. There are two sins in the Bible that are spoken of that really do grieve the Spirit. One is bitterness and anger and resentment, and the other one happens to be sexual sin.
Now why is it that the Holy Spirit of God grieves when we sin? It’s because the Spirit knows things that we should know as well. If you are a parent here today and you are grieving because your child is a runaway, because your child is a prodigal, why do you grieve so much? It’s for two reasons. Number one, you know that the far country is a terrible place and it makes promises it can never keep, and as an adult you know the consequences of sin, but your child doesn’t. So you grieve because of what you know but the real reason why you grieve is because you love. The more you love a child the more you are going to grieve because of that child, and the reason that the Holy Spirit of God grieves with us is because the Holy Spirit of God knows first of all that sin is a bad idea and sin is actually a mask worn by God’s sworn enemy, namely Satan. And God’s enemy is the one who wants to make sin to look good to us and deceive us. And so consequently the Apostle Paul is saying, “Don’t you realize that the Holy Spirit of God who is within you, He knows that, but the Spirit of God also loves us and because God loves, He is grieved when He sees us go the wrong direction, destroying ourselves, destroying our testimony, and above all, destroying even ourselves as persons.
The second reason why we ought to be morally pure is not only because we are joined to Jesus, but also because the blessed Holy Spirit of God indwells us. We are the temple of God. We are not a garage. We need to remember that. We are God’s holy temple. Therefore, do not grieve the Holy Spirit.
But then there is a third reason, and that is because of who bought us. You’ll notice it says, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit within you? You are not your own for you were bought with a price, so glorify God in your body.” You were bought with a price. You are not your own.
When you get a sickness–when you are told that you have cancer, you should keep in mind that it is, after all, a body that belongs to God, and God eventually will take you to heaven. We will all die. Death is just around the corner for some of us, though we don’t know exactly for whom, and God will take us to heaven and then eventually He will give us a new body, but our bodies have been purchased by God.
First of all, we are His on the basis of creation, but we are also His on the basis of redemption, and because of that redemption, we have an obligation to God to say, “Here is my body; use it.” That’s why I’ve been encouraging you every morning before you get out of bed (as I did this morning) to pray and to say, “Oh God, today glorify yourself in my life at my expense,” because I am not my own. I belong to God. I’ve been purchased at high cost.
So Paul is saying that because of these reasons, flee immorality. He understands that sometimes temptation is so strong that we can’t stay around to see whether or not we are strong enough to resist it. You know, we are all like that, aren’t we? We hang around and then we say, “I wonder if I’m strong enough in the Lord to resist temptation. Well, let me find out.” With that kind of an attitude, we fall into temptation so the Apostle Paul says, “Flee immorality.” If you’ve got to leave the job that you are involved in, then leave it. If you’ve got to break off a relationship, then break it off.
Now having said all of that, I promised you that in this message that I would give you hope. So for this I want you to notice that the passage is open to chapter 6 and verse 9. We’re still in the same chapter but we are beginning at a different point. “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” This is a strong passage. Does the Apostle Paul mean that this means that they will not get into heaven or they will just not inherit the kingdom? Many people believe it does indeed mean that the unrighteous will not even get into heaven, and then it says, “Don’t be deceived.” Why does Paul say that? It’s because there is no area in which we so long to be deceived as when it comes to sexual sin. We want to believe our lies. We rationalize. We explain. We say, “Well, we have to live together for economic reasons and for other reasons and we plan to be married,” and “You have to understand. I found my soulmate,” somebody says, “and so I can leave my wife because I finally found somebody who satisfies me.” The deceptions are endless and so the Apostle Paul says, “Please don’t be deceived.” Be deceived about some things but don’t be deceived about this, and notice what he says: “Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy (I thought it was okay to be greedy. I thought that’s what America is all about is greed. Well this is what the text says.), nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers (We usually don’t include them, do we?) will inherit the kingdom of God.” There’s the list of who will not inherit the kingdom of God. It’s very serious stuff.
Don’t be deceived. Does this mean that, for example, those homosexuals should be changed to heterosexuals in terms of their desires? Well that oftentimes happens over a period of time but it isn’t necessarily the case. What we expect of those (Notice it says those who practice homosexuality) who struggle with homosexuality is the very same thing that we expect from those who are heterosexuals (singles), namely chastity and commitment to purity. And that’s what the Bible indeed would require. But the question is, “How do you get there?” Well I am glad you asked. Notice it says, “And such were some of you (past tense), 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.”
Wow! So they had all those sins back then too. Yes, they did, but such were some of you. It’s in your past.
First of all, the Apostle Paul says you are washed. That means you have come to saving faith in Jesus Christ. You’ve believed in His deliverance and His forgiveness, and you have come to faith in Christ. If you are listening today and you are not a believer, I encourage you to come to saving faith in Christ. Admit your sinfulness. Be thankful that He died on the cross for sinners and paid the debt of all who would believe on Him, and receive that free gift of eternal life, and you become washed. And after that, those of us who have had that experience, we continue to be washed through deep confession and repentance. The Bible says if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of the heifers sprinkling the unclean sanctifies to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal covenant offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Isn’t it wonderful that our consciences can be totally purged? First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us.” You may be forgiven but also I encourage you to be cleansed. That is to say that even your heart tells you that you have been cleansed by God because the nagging conscience and the memories and the self-condemnation are all gone because of Jesus and because of your confession. So the Bible says you are washed.
David, you remember, committed both murder and adultery and he said, “Wash me and I shall be clean. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.” I used to ponder that and those of us who live here in Chicago, knowing what snow is like, say, “How could you possibly get whiter than snow?” until I learned that if you take a bucket of snow and you heat it and it melts, the water, of course is in the bottom of the bucket and in that water there is a residue. God is saying, “I can even wash you so clean that there is no residue–whiter than snow.” So he says, “You are washed.”
Now washing itself makes us clean but it doesn’t deliver us. It doesn’t keep us clean, does it? We need something else and that’s why he goes on to say, “But you are sanctified.” Sanctified means set apart by God. The actual meaning is you have been made holy by God, and sanctification is a process that we have throughout our entire lifetime. But it cannot happen without some personal disciplines–being in the Word of God, being in prayer, yielding to God every day, giving our days to God. But it also can’t happen without help from other believers. That’s why we here at The Moody Church have TMC Communities. We have small groups. We have all of these opportunities for us to meet together, because we cannot live the Christian life alone, and some of you are into addictions and you are into relationships that you cannot break without some outside help from other believers. And that’s why it’s so important for you to be willing to confess and to go for help to whomever you believe can help you–someone whom you trust–so that these relationships can be broken because they are tremendously powerful. But God says, “I have washed you. You’ve been sanctified. You’ve been set apart.” You need to live that out, and you have been justified. You have been declared righteous in God’s sight, and in being declared righteous in God’s sight you have a standing that gives you some sense of assurance, some sense of knowledge that you belong to God and you belong to Him forever. Titus 3:5 says by his mercy we have been saved by the washing of water through the word of God. In this way we are constantly being cleansed. We are constantly being helped. We are constantly being given encouragement along our journey of life. Paul says to those involved in such sins, “Such were some of you.”
Now I have to ask you a question. Some of you who are listening to this are going to have to pay quite a price, aren’t you, for obedience to God? But there it says, “Don’t be deceived. Don’t continue the rationalizations that you have had in your mind for months and maybe years because all those fall in the presence of the word.” And the question is, are you willing to pay that kind of price? For some of you it’s breaking that relationship. It’s breaking those bonds. It’s receiving cleansing for all of the soul ties that you have had in your past. It is a dedication to sexual purity, whether you are married or unmarried, and the commitment to be able to say, “By God’s grace I will be who Jesus redeemed me to be.” And everything that God asks you to do is based on that which Jesus has done, so the work has been laid, the work of the cross, the work of the Spirit is there, but what you need to do is to receive it, and that may be difficult.
You know, the Bible says that He breaks the power of cancelled sin. It’s possible for your sin to be cancelled, but its power is still there, and so what you need is help–help from God and help from others.
I remember speaking to a young man here at The Moody Church many years ago who wanted to marry a young woman who had many soul ties in her pre-conversion days, and he asked me about it, and I said that even though this young woman (whom I happened to know) is no longer a virgin in her body, she is a virgin in her soul. There is such a thing, I think, as spiritual virginity. God can restore the years. God can restore the soul so that you can glorify God again no matter what your past is. But the question is, are you willing to do what is necessary?”
When Jesus was talking about sexual sin, you remember He said, “If your eye offends you pluck it out and cast it from you.” And then he said, “If your hand offends you, cut it off and cast it from you because it would be better for you (and surely it would be) to be in heaven with one eye than to be in hell with two, or to be in heaven with one arm than to be in hell with two.” Obviously he was speaking metaphorically, but what Jesus was saying in the strongest possible way is this. “Do whatever is necessary to get rid of those sexual sins and bonds that keep dragging you down.” Do not be deceived. Don’t rationalize except what God has to say so that it can be said of you, “And such were you but now you are washed, you are sanctified, and you are justified.”
Father, I have no idea for whom this message is intended, but I know that You know and they know exactly for whom it was intended. I’m only praying that the Holy Spirit of God would grant grace to wherever He has spoken to us, to know that your Word says that we are to flee from sexual immorality, even at high personal cost. Father, I want to pray for those who are in adulterous relationships that they have justified. I pray that You will give them the grace to come clean. For singles who are involved in relationships, for those who struggle with homosexuality and those relationships, Father we are all sinners, and we are all broken, but grant special grace, we pray, that we might be able to glorify You in our bodies. For those who have never trusted Christ as Savior, may they do that even where they are. May they reach out today and say, “I want to be cleansed. I want to be made whole by Jesus.” Do that, Father, for us we pray.
And now before I close this prayer, would you talk to God and ask him what you need to do to obey God’s Word?
Father, give all of us a spirit of repentance we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.