Wisdom in Sex
Caseys logo: What do you think of when you see this?
The goal of creating the American flag, or any other flag for that matter, is that we would have a symbol that pointed us to something greater than just some fabric sewed together.
The same is true when you pick up a smartphone or tablet if you have one. You see rows of icons on the front. Each icon represents something bigger, something more than just a button – entertainment in the form of a game, or some form of productivity that sits on the other side of pushing that button. For me, on the other side of one little icon is a workout, a bike ride, sore muscles, etc.
The goal of any logo or icon or any flag is to point to something greater than just the logo itself.
Well today, we’re talking about another kind of icon, another pointer to the gospel story that we participate in, and that is marriage and sexuality. I’m going to tell you right off the top that we don’t have time to cover all the angles of this topic. And it’s so layered that someone will always be able to say, “yeah but what about this…” So, I’m not promising that I’m going to answer all of those today. But I’m going to try and make the foundational discussion as solid as I can so if those kinds of exception questions come up, we have a solid place to start.
Up to this point in this series, we’ve been talking every week about the two paths, or two houses, or two trees, or even two women that represent wisdom and folly. Proverbs is pretty much a speech from a father to his son, encouraging his son to choose wisdom over folly. So today, the father pleads with his son to use wisdom when it comes to sexuality, temptation and so on.
Our approach today’s sermon is like a three-legged stool. Three truths from scripture that give us a solid base for any discussion on sexuality.
For the first leg of the stool, turn in your Bibles to the first book of the Bible, called Genesis, and we’ll be in chapter 2. The set up here is that God has just spent six days creating and he is just about finished. He has created air, land, the sea, trees, plants, walruses, and walnuts, butterflies and beluga whales, termites and pterodactyls. He’s created day and night, made them separate; he’s invented time, gravity, photosynthesis; he’s created all the functions of the solar system; every ecosystem imaginable, and all the functions of animals, sea creatures, birds, and the man he had made to take care of this creation.
And right before he wraps up the whole Creation process and rests, he takes a piece of the man he had created (Genesis 2:22), and creates a woman from that piece. The man, who had noticed that all the animals came in pairs but he was alone, broke out in celebration when God brought the woman to him. He was overjoyed, delighted, and maybe he did a little dance. His reaction is recorded in Genesis 2:23.
But the whole story of creation, before God rests on the seventh day, ends with this verse: Genesis 2:24 This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh. 25 Both the man and his wife were naked, yet felt no shame.
From those two verses alone, I would argue that marriage in the Bible is defined as a man and a woman only. And from those verses I would argue that becoming one flesh happens after she is recognized as his wife. And here they both are, husband and wife, fully exposed to each other; everything out in the open, figuratively and literally, and not an ounce of shame or fear or anxiousness or uncertainty between them. Only shameless joy. So the first leg of the stool, the first part of the foundation is God’s intention for marriage and sex. And he called them VERY GOOD!
Let’s head now to Proverbs 5.
[5:1] My son, pay attention to my wisdom; listen closely to my understanding  so that you may maintain discretion and your lips safeguard knowledge.  Though the lips of the forbidden woman drip honey and her words are smoother than oil,  in the end she's as bitter as wormwood and as sharp as a double-edged sword.  Her feet go down to death; her steps head straight for Sheol.  She doesn't consider the path of life; she doesn't know that her ways are unstable. 7 So now, sons, listen to me, and don’t turn away from the words from my mouth. 8 Keep your way far from her. Don’t go near the door of her house.
So this is pretty obviously a warning. The dad warns his son that there is a way that you think will be healthy and sweet, but turns out to be bitter and deadly. Honey represents vigor and vitality, oil represents blessing. So there is a way about romance that may seem sweet and delicious but ends up deadly.
The second leg of the stool is the foolishness of our own wisdom. God promised that our own wisdom would bring death. It’s the path of folly. In your Proverbs reading plan this week, you read on Friday – There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way to death. (Prov 16:25) If all we do is operate on what makes sense to us, what feels right, following our heart, we’re going to end up spiritually dead.
Chapter 7 paints the picture for us:
[7:6] At the window of my house I looked through my lattice.  I saw among the inexperienced, I noticed among the youths, a young man lacking sense.  Crossing the street near her corner, he strolled down the road to her house  at twilight, in the evening, in the dark of the night.  A woman came to meet him dressed like a prostitute, having a hidden agenda.  She is loud and defiant; her feet do not stay at home.  Now in the street, now in the squares, she lurks at every corner.  She grabs him and kisses him; she brazenly says to him,  "I've made fellowship offerings; today I've fulfilled my vows.  So I came out to meet you, to search for you, and I've found you.  I've spread coverings on my bed- richly colored linen from Egypt.  I've perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.  Come, let's drink deeply of lovemaking until morning. Let's feast on each other's love!  My husband isn't home; he went on a long journey.  He took a bag of silver with him and will come home at the time of the full moon."  She seduces him with her persistent pleading; she lures with her flattering talk.  He follows her impulsively like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer bounding toward a trap  until an arrow pierces its liver, like a bird darting into a snare- he doesn't know it will cost him his life.
The dad speaking to his son here is brilliantly using a story to illustrate how temptation works, and is at the same time instructing his son on how to avoid getting caught in this trap.
- It matters who your friends are. This young man surrounds himself with fools, that’s problem #1.
- The young man puts himself in a position to be tempted. The wise father is inside his own house at night, where he is far from trouble. The young man is out in the streets all night – twilight, evening, dark of night – near her house, crossing the street, strolling… he knows temptation is on any corner, and his foolishness shows.
- Temptation will find you. All of a sudden she is there, dressed to kill, and without warning, grabs him and kisses him. Have you ever been reading an article online, a news article, or something completely innocent, and all of a sudden some ads on the side or the bottom appear that entice you to make another click.
- Temptation makes an argument, an appeal to his heart. You won’t get caught. No one will know. You’re not hurting anyone.
And the father warns his son four times in chapters 5-7, DON’T. DO IT! Don’t surround yourself with fools, don’t put yourself in situations where temptation is strongest, and if it finds you when you’re not ready, RUN! It leads to death.
But movies and the world’s teaching on sexuality never includes death. The leading actors end up in bed together just moments after they meet, the movie ends, the other conflicts in the story are resolved, the couple seems happy, so I guess everything works out fine, and that’s just the way things go!
So why all the talk about death? Why are the proverbs so heavy-handed? They are consenting adults. They aren’t hurting anyone. It’s just a hookup. If you’re both into it, what’s the big deal?”
Ask Tiger Woods. Ask the family of the late Ravi Zaccharias, or Christian comedian John Crist if it’s just a hookup. Families, friends, company employees left with a mess to clear up, reputations tarnished, money lost, trust broken. The father in Proverbs warns that if you follow your own wisdom as it pertains to sexuality, you are running straight into a trap, and in the end you will pay dearly.
Think about this: If we only followed God’s wisdom for sexuality, and never followed our own, the world would virtually have no sexually transmitted diseases, no AIDS, no pornography or sex trafficking, no rape or incest, no sexual abuse or molestation, no unwanted pregnancies, no abortion. No more families broken by betrayal, lies, and deceit. ALL IF WE JUST FOLLOWED GOD’S WISDOM!
But since we don’t, the pornography industry makes $97 billion/year globally. 1 of out 10 visitors to porn video sites are under 10 years old, simply because they know how to use the search history on their parents’ devices.1 Because we operate on our own wisdom when it comes to sexuality, 1 in 6 American women have been raped or had rape attempted.2 Every 68 seconds, someone is sexually abused, and every nine minutes it’s a child.2
Because we operate on our own wisdom, the US has broken our own record of reported sexually transmitted disease cases for 6 years in a row.3 And because we operate on our own wisdom for sexuality, 92% of American men and 76% of American women self-pleasure on a regular basis.4
I’m not trying to be gross. I’m using current data to show you the dad in Proverbs is right: Your sexuality matters to God! It matters to God! After all, the first foundational truth is that God created sex. He designed us for it, and it’s primary purpose is wholesome and godly and good.
That’s why the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6, 18 Flee sexual immorality! Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body. 19 Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body. -- 1 Corinthians 6:16-20 (CSB)
This whole thing of “my body, my choice” is incredibly arrogant. For a believer in Jesus to say that is sin. It is not your body to do with what you want. It is not your obligation or your responsibility to satisfy your natural desires – they are not necessarily holy or even good just because you have them. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, not the temple of Self! Your body was purchased out of the pit of sin by the blood of Jesus! So glorify God with your body!
How do you glorify God with your body?
- Don’t put yourself in situations where you know temptation lives. If you’re most tempted at night, put the phone across the room. Move the TV out of the bedroom. Change jobs. Change gyms or the time of day you workout. Jesus went so far as to say if your eye causes you to sin, grab a spoon and pop it out. It’s better to go to heaven with one eye than to hell with two good eyes that can’t stop objectifying someone else.
- If you are called to be married, you glorify God with your body by having sexual relations with your spouse. 1 Cor 7:2 says don’t deprive each other unless you have mutually agreed to a set period of time, and only if you’re using that time specifically to pray. Notice, that doesn’t say “don’t deprive yourself.” Sex isn’t about you getting what your body requires. It’s about honoring God and honoring your spouse through mutual enjoyment.
- Parents can glorify God by praying for their children, specifically in the area of sexuality. Back to Proverbs 5, the dad prays that his son would be infatuated one day with his own wife. That he would delight in her, be mesmerized by her, and not lose himself in the embrace of someone else. Pray that your child would run from immorality, have open discussions with them, teach them about God’s design for sex, and pray that their future spouses would be men or women with a fear of the Lord.
- Guard your heart/mind. If you’re not married, whether you are 10 or 80 or anywhere in between, guard what you read/watch. If you find yourself tempted to take pleasure from other people’s bodies, either in person or online, call out to God for help! Pick a trusted friend or mentor, and text them when temptation is strong, “Hey I’m really feeling weak right now… please pray for me.” And do what you can to run from temptation. As certain as God will punish sin, he will reward righteousness.5
Those are practical things to do, but it’s a lot of do’s and don’ts. Humans have shown since the garden of Eden that we’re not very good at those. So where is the hope in all this? Well, we’re still missing that third leg on this stool. For that third leg, we need some hope, and for that we turn back to the New Testament.
The apostle Paul, speaking about marriage in Ephesians 5, speaks of how husbands and wives should relate to each other, and he brings his discussion to a close by quoting the verse we started with in Genesis 2. This is why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, Paul says. How two separate people become one flesh is a little mysterious. What does that mean, and how does it happen?
Paul addresses that question by saying, in effect, well, a man and a woman leaving their respective homes to live in the same house with combined bank accounts, shared last name, and joining in the physical expression of sex are some ways that two separate lives become one. But he also understands marriage to point to a bigger reality and he points to it in verse 32 of Eph 5 – ”I am talking about Christ and the church!”
Which is to say that “the picture God has given us of his love for his people is that of a husband pursuing his bride.”
So we’ve got one leg of the stool in Genesis, the creation account – marriage, nakedness, sex are all God’s creation, and he calls it good. A husband and wife, fully exposed to each other – emotionally, physically, spiritually without any sort of reservation or hesitation – THAT’S God’s design. Our second leg of the stool is firmly planted in human rebellion. We’ve gone our own way, made our own choices based on what seemed best at the time to us. We’ve acted on sexual urges without any consideration to whether or not it honors God’s original design, and we have suffered some serious and horrifying consequences.
But our third leg of the stool is in Ephesians 5, that says sex and marriage isn’t just about a man and woman in love – it is a picture of how a holy and faithful God pursues and delights in his people, the Church.
Pastor Jeff Vanderstelt writes it like this: “Jesus loved his bride enough to serve her and give up his life as a ransom for her. She was unfaithful to him. She gave herself to others. She did not wait for him, but grew impatient and easily gave in to those not committed to a covenant relationship. And yet Jesus paid the bride price of his own life to purchase her out of her adulterous enslavement. His death on the cross paid the debt for her sin and cleansed her of all her impurities. With his own life he purchased for her a perfectly pure wedding dress. In fact the dress she gets to wear is his own righteousness, which covers the shame of her sin. He died to give her freedom, purity, and unending love. Then he rose again and went to prepare a place for her. One day he will come for his bride and take her home to live with him forever. And though it’s been more than 2000 years, he is patiently waiting until that day when his bride will be fully prepared, and he will consummate the marriage at the greatest wedding party of all eternity. Jesus is a faithful, loving, and patient lover who is willing to wait for the love of his life!
The reason we keep sex in marriage is because of Jesus’ faithfulness to us! We are his bride, and we live to tell of his love for us!6
So any discussion on sexuality needs to keep those three foundational legs of the stool in place.
- God’s good design ; Human rebellion; and Jesus the Redeemer.
- Maybe you’re here today and you’re thinking, man, I have royally messed up. I’ve made so many mistakes, I can’t count them. I live with the regret of those choices, and I know they have brought pain to people I love.
- 1 John says if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just. He doesn’t say “aw, that’s okay. You didn’t know.” He says Jesus paid the price for your forgiveness. So I will not only forgive you, but there is no more record of wrong on your account as far as I’m concerned. It is gone. As far as the east is from the west. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. You have been washed, sanctified, redeemed.
- If you are caught in the trap of pornography or sexual addiction, we have biblical counseling available here, and would be happy to walk with you to some freedom.
- Maybe you’re here today and it wasn’t sexual choices you made that bring pain and sorrow. It was the choices of others. Through rape or some other sexual abuse, you feel like damaged goods.
- Isaiah 42 says Jesus has made himself available to you, not through aggression or shouting, but through gentleness and mercy. You may feel like a flower that has been stepped on, crushed and broken. Isaiah 42:3 says Jesus isn’t the kind of person who comes along and snaps off that flower. He doesn’t look at that flower and say “well, it’s going to die anyway.” He is able to restore and heal whatever crushing you have experienced, internal or external, in a way no one else can.
- You are not damaged goods. God has called you to himself, a lover who will never abandon or abuse. Again, we would be happy to walk with you to healing through biblical counseling if you’re willing.
- Maybe you’re here today and through this whole conversation, you puffed up your chest thinking “He’s not talking about me. I’ve not been abused, and when it comes to affairs or pornography or prostitutes, I would never do those kinds of things.”
- Repent of your pride.
- In humility, go to the Father and thank him for his protection around your heart and mind that you don’t deserve.
No matter where you find yourself this morning, Romans 6 says all things work together for the good of those who love God. God was sovereign over every choice you made, even when you didn’t follow him. He could have stopped you, but he didn’t. He is putting all the pieces of your life together to create a beautiful piece of artwork that shows his grace and his glory in a way that he ordained before you were even born.
- Audio lecture by Bruce Waltke on Proverbs, http:///www.biblicaltraining.org
- Jeff Vanderstelt, Gospel Fluency (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017), 32-33