Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 5 April 2018

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality.   1 Thessalonians 4:3 (NIV).

Buckle up, my friend.   It’s gonna be bumpy for the next few days because Paul is saying, with the authority of Jesus, some uncomfortable things.   He’s speaking in love, but he’s saying things that are unpopular, things we don’t want to hear.   They’re convicting, and you might be convicted.   Your first impulse might be offense, or even anger, so buckle up and stay on the ride because it’s worthwhile.

One of the dangers of “chunking down” Bible verses is taking them out of context.   It’s a dangerous thing to randomly pick a verse, read it, and draw huge conclusions from it even though every verse in Scripture is God’s real word.   So, here, it’s wise to remember that, in many of Paul’s letters, he reminds his friends to flee from sexual immorality.  Run away when you’re tempted.  Sexual purity is a theme in Deuteronomy and Leviticus, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (just to name a few), and anyone who has remotely heard of Genesis has heard of Sodom and Gomorrah:  the ultimate lesson on sexual immorality.

Every ancient culture except Israel focused in one way or another on sex, including idolatry of sex, sexual activities, or fertility.   When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, he wrote to people familiar with Eros, Aprhrodite, and the lascivious practices of Roman worship.  He reminded them that Christ gave Himself as the bridegroom for His bride, the church.  Is it surprising, then, that God asked His bride to be virginally pure for that Bridegroom?

How do you think that worked out for the Thessalonians?

They were people just like us.  They thought about and focused on sex as much as we do.   They had emotions and sexual needs.  Paul cautioned them that they were to be sanctified, set apart and consecrated as holy.   The first way to do that was by changing their behaviors on sex.   Commit to monogamy; end adultery; save your sexual activity for your marriage; retrain your brain from thinking about sex and lust and the idolatry of it.   Let Jesus do work His way in you.  Paul’s command is to revere faith in Him and the gift of life He gave, and it’s awful hard to revere Christ when you’re (literally) screwing around with someone.

I’ve spent a lot of my life cherishing sex, even worshipping it.   I’ve misused it and that caused problems for me and others.   Paul is speaking to me here, cautioning me that Jesus beckons me to a better way.   Thank God He did this because you and I need His help if we are going to master this emotional, biological and even spiritual drive in our lives in a world determined to misuse it.

For further reading:   1 Corinthians 7:2-9, 1 Thessalonians 4:3.

Lord, forgive me for the ways I’ve misused Your gift of sex.   Help me to revere You through my sex life.

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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.