Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 6 November 2017

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.   Hebrews 13, verse 4.

If you’ve never had an affair, please take my advice:   don’t.  Infidelity is its own kind of jail.   If you are like me and you let it, it will keep you in that jail forever.   Without sharing too much, I’ve done this, and it is, for me, a unique kind of self-imposed torture.

For years, I invested my heart, then my body, then my life, in other people.   You don’t need to have sex to have an affair and because that’s the case, I’ve had plenty.  I poured myself into other people who weren’t my wife.   I cheated without ever touching them, and I cheated later by touching and being touched as well.  That’s a prison; it’s a jail that you lock yourself into.  It may start innocuously, and it may start as just real friendship, but it’s too easy to go farther.  If you get yourself into an affair, it’s because (at some point) you let yourself fall for the “what about me” angle.   When you’re in that cycle, you don’t see how you’re hurting your significant other, or the person with whom you’re cheating, and all the people around them and yourself.  You don’t have the right to make the promises you do, and you don’t have the right to do the things you’re doing, but you do them anyway.  It hardens your heart, and it’s a small step beyond that to move into unrepentance.   “I deserve to be happy” becomes your self-defeating mantra, and that can be torture.  It’s as if God turned me over to the consequence of my actions…in reality, THAT is what I deserved, and it is painful.  My conscience still bothers me for all the people I hurt and it has been years now since I did these things.   I’ve ebbed and flowed in my emotions, yet even today I sometimes find it hard to forgive myself for things I’ve done.

Yet I also know of someone who is forgiving.   Someone who doesn’t tolerate these sins but who is so intimately affected by them.  I know of someone who rejects these sins and focuses on building up instead of hammering with guilt.   There is someone who is willing to forgive things done in the past and move forward in building something new; someone who believes in turning from sinful behavior and growing into someone different, someone better, someone who can live more honestly.

That’s my wife.   I could have been describing Jesus because Jesus is her model.   Where she could have permanently held my sins against me, she chose to help me change and become someone different.   Her example became my example; her embracing of God helped me to do the same.   The words you read today came in large part because of that.   In the most supremely Christian and loving moment of my life, she reached out to me and said “God’s not done with us yet” and made all the difference in the world, this when she had left me, when I was mired in the consequences of adultery, and when I had destroyed all she held dear.   She didn’t have to come back and I didn’t deserve it.   She chose to.

When you’re a Christian and you confess adultery, most of your peers treat you as if you had AIDS or the plague, especially your married friends.   It’s shocking how quickly people pull out of your life when you cross that particular line, and it’s shocking how they avoid you after.   It’s almost as if they are worried that, if they’re around you, they’ll catch the disease.   Maybe there’s some justifiable fear there, and certainly there’s justifiable treatment if the motivation is to educate someone’s heart back towards Christ.  Yet just the verse before today’s, the writer implores us to empathize with those “who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”   Now he reminds us to do that but also to keep our sex lives pure.  After my the days of my affairs, my wife and I became close friends with a group of people who became ‘our posse.’  We talk openly; we laugh and cry; we share the Gospel; we enjoy wine and fellowship.   ‘Our people’ know our story and accept us anyway.

It’s because of the intimacy.   God wired us to be intimate with Him.   He gave us fellowship to model how He wants us to relate.   And He gave us sex to share physically, emotionally, perfectly as a reflection for how He feels for us in a personal, singular, unique relationship with just one other person.   Joining, pleasure, being out of control, sharing our most personal selves, vulnerability, love:   all those things and more are some of what we embrace when we make love.  God intended it to be a gift for us to share with another person in a relationship blessed and covenanted by & with Him.  The writer reminds us to remember that, to love our brothers and sisters when they fall but to not fall ourselves in doing so.   The penalty for un-repentance is dire.

If you find yourself in an affair, even if you’ve fallen in love, end it.   If you’re tempted, back away.   If you’re walking down a path that could end in bed, walk a different way.  If you don’t, at some point the person you see in the mirror will wish they had.   And when that happens, remember the Lord who beckons you back to a better way.

For further reading:  Malachi 2:15, 1 Corinthians 7:38, Deuteronomy 22:22, 1 Corinthians 6:9, Revelation 22:15.

Lord, forgive my sexual sins, and teach me again to forgive myself.   Help those tempted by these things, and be with us as we recover.

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 3 October 2017

See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.  Hebrews 12, verses 16-17.

If you were just skimming through the verses today, you might blaze past those first seven words:  “see that no one is sexually immoral.”  They jump out at you, but then most of them talks about Esau, presenting him as another example of immorality.  But did you know that the Bible says in over 25 different verses that we are to not be sexually immoral?   Most of those are in the New Testament, some of them (like Matthew 5:28) spoken directly by Jesus Himself.   Sexual behavior is something God wants us to understand in His way.

Now, I’m not here to preach to you or talk you down for your sexual sins.   You’ve got them; so have I.   For years, I put sex on a pedestal, thinking it was the thing you did if you wanted to show someone you cared for them.  That’s true, but it’s also cheap.   It’s that kind of thinking that gets you quickly in the sack, unless you were teenage me.   For years I had a low opinion of myself, and throughout school I only had one really serious relationship.   The whole “goin out” thing didn’t go for me.   Or at least the local girls didn’t.   By the time I finally did have sex, I didn’t know a thing about it, only that it felt physically great and emotionally torturous at the same time. I struggled with sexual identity, wanting to be attractive to the opposite sex but feeling that (no pun intended) I somehow didn’t measure up, that nobody would want me.  I kept sex up on that pedestal and in actuality valued it as “my right” or just something you do.   No wonder affairs resulted.

Asking for a “do-over” is usually a fool’s game.   We rarely get them in life, and I believe that’s a blessing from God.  He wants us to live in the here and now, relying on Him for our guidance in everything.   Yet if He ever asked me what do-over I’d like, I’d ask Him for a chance to re-do my attitude about sex.   I’d want the attitude the 51 year old Dave has to be the one 16 year old Dave lives by.   It’s not to be prudish:   it’s to seek God’s wisdom.   Middle-aged me looks at sex as a gift instead of just something physical or something to worship.

You know that sex is intended for marriage.   It is indeed intended to be the ultimate expression of caring for someone:   someone you’re committed to before God.   God made us as men and women to complement each other in how we live, including between the sheets.   He intended for physical union to be an expression of our relationship with each other and even with Him.  He intended it for procreation, for pleasure, for intimacy, for physicality, for love.   I know that in my own life I haven’t often asked God what He thought of my sexual life, of what I should think about sex.   If I could ask for that do-over, I’d want more of God’s input, more of His heart in how I give my heart and body to the woman He created just for me.

God wants us to value His gift of sex, to cherish how we take our pleasure from it by cherishing who we have sex with.   There is no “free love” and sex always carries emotional and even spiritual connotations.   God wants us to value those, so He commands us to steer clear from the easy morality that is, in fact, immorality.  That’s why the Bible mentions it so often.  Sex outside of marriage cheapens something that God gave us as an expression of the pleasure it is to be in union with Him.

Where yesterday we were talking about how to not be a bitter root (and thus abandon God’s peace), wouldn’t it be a thing of wonder if we all sought out God’s heart when we look at each other with more than just a passing interest?   My wife is hooked on watching shows about the Duggar and Bates families.   If you don’t know much about them, they’re very faith-based and live their lives by that faith.   One of the things these large families have taught their kids is the lost art of Godly courtship.   Of waiting for marriage to share any kind of physical pleasure, even a first kiss.   In a time and age when new TV shows like “The Deuce” seem to reach for the lowest sexual denominator, I find that refreshing.   These families live their lives in a way I wish I had.   I believe, perhaps, that I still would have chosen the wife I did because I believe she’s the woman God created specifically for me.   Yet perhaps our path to deeper intimacy wouldn’t have been as rocky or as full of heartbreak and hurt.

And on that note, tomorrow let’s talk about Esau.

For further reading:  1 Corinthians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, Hebrews 13:4, Matthew 5:28, Ephesians 5:5, Genesis 25:29-34, Genesis 27:30-40, .

My Lord, thank You for sex.   Thank You for opening my eyes to how You view it.   Help me to cherish this gift and to share it thankfully with my spouse.  

Practical Proverbial, the Ten Commandments, 22 May 2014

You shall not commit adultery. Exodus chapter 20, verse 14.

This one is hard to write. If you’ve read this blog for any time, you’ve heard me talk about my affairs. To be honest, I try to not live with regrets.   It’s better to let God take them over, to let go of them and live in forgiveness instead.   But I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t regret the affairs.

Adultery is idolatry is lying is stealing is dishonor is coveting is hatred. It starts with idolatry, putting yourself first instead of Jesus or those closest to you. Unfaithfulness starts in the heart and it starts with that thought of “what about me?”   Me first; my needs; I need this.   Let’s be real:   not all self-needs are wrong, especially if you’re abused, used, or hurt by someone else.   But when you put yourself before anything else, the idolatry leads to the coveting.   That leads to the lies, believing the lies you tell and those told to you.  

Even when you live in forgiveness, you know there’s a part of you that did this thing that cut someone to the core. You did that thing that ripped apart the fabric of your relationship at its most fundamental level.   I know people who step out on their spouses and can live with it.   But without forgiveness, I honestly don’t understand how they do it.

Adultery is more than just sex.   That’s the most visible and visceral part of it.   But make no mistake: you don’t have to take your clothes off to cheat on someone. And when you do that, there is regret.   Self-loathing, anguish, regret, hurt, pain: they’re all there in the eyes of the one you love most, and they’re also there when you’re alone in your thoughts.

The only thing that can change your heart, that can help you truly turn away from this pattern of destruction, is the love of Jesus Christ. Repenting means responsibility.   It means baring what you’ve done and committing fully to Him, and to the good mercy of Him and those you’ve wronged. There are many reasons why people do it, and, to be honest, none of them are valid. When you’re done, the only thing that can clean you up is the blood of Jesus.

I’m the blessed one.   Forgiveness was given to me.   I repented; I changed. God fixed my marriage and we became better. Yet, now and then, the regret comes bubbling up.   Now and then, the sins of the past try to cloud the goodness of today.   You beat it back with forgiveness. God forbade adultery because He understood how it would shred us, tear us away from Him.   It did my marriage, and it did me. Only God can make that better.

Lord Jesus, forgive me of my sin and clean me up from it.   Thank You for your forgiveness, for Your healing, and for a true second chance.

 

Read Exodus chapter 8, More plagues…what happens when our hearts are hard…