Life tends toward complexity. Complexity is tiring and overwhelming. Most of us are already overwhelmed with more information and demands than we can handle. It seems like every week we need to take stock and cut out, afresh, the complexity from our lives. Simple, on the other hand, is cool. Simple is better. Simple is more effective. Simple is attractive in this day and age. Simple is refined. Simple is leaner and meaner (in a good way). Simple is possible. What complexity do you need to cut out of your job, relationships, finances, health, schedule and faith? There’s been no better time than right now to get simple, get clear and feel more effective in life.
This issue of ‘gay marriage’ is a hot topic in our culture. I offer my reflections as a Christian.
Genesis 1:26-28 tells us that we have been created in the image of God. We aren’t animals who can’t control our sexual desires or preferences but image bearers made in the likeness of God, male and female, he created us.
We can’t start talking about homosexual marriage by talking about homosexual marriage. We need to consider the BIG picture issue (Genesis 1-2, Psalm 24:1, 72:19) of why God created the universe. Every atom, molecule, creature and person was made for the glory of God. Every question about life must come back to how God’s glory is made visible in creation. The right order of things in God’s creation will be the order that most demonstrates God’s glory. God made us male and female and complimentary partners and this is the order that brings God most glory.
We aren’t self-defining creatures, nor autonomous moral agents but fully accountable to God as his creation. Evolutionary theory is destructive because it minimizes morality to a social construct that simply serves for the reproduction of the human race rather than a universal principle found in the personhood of God. It’s interesting how we will relax on morals when it comes to sexual preferences of 2 consenting adults, but if an old mans sexual preference is fondling little kids, then its amazing how moralistic we all become. How can you hold to a moral position on child molestation and tell an old man his particular sexual preference is wrong, if you don’t think that a moral framework applies to your own sexual preferences? It’s inconsistent.
We can never talk about sex without talking about marriage. Fire is great in the fireplace but dangerous outside of it and the same is for sex outside of the context of marriage. Sex makes sense only within the context of marriage between a man and a woman. Sex outside of marriage and God’s order is an insult to the creators design and the height of human arrogance. Human sinfulness is displayed in our demand for autonomy, for our rights and rejection of God’s moral law. The marriage union between a man and a woman is spiritually, emotionally, physically and anatomically glorious to God.
How we approach any issue is determined by how we read the bible. To hear a lecturer say, that because there’s only 11 scriptures in the bible on homosexuality, and that these 11 verses are insufficient to build a case against homosexuality, is utterly ridiculous. You’d be hard pressed to find 1 verse on child molestation and yet we acknowledge the sinfulness of the desire and action. I recently read a theological paper from a local church pastor, acknowledging that, “Any Christians response to homosexuality must draw its basis from the bible”, however, he then proceeds to question every Pauline text suggesting, “The question remains as to whether Paul’s teaching in Romans allows for committed, mutual, loving homosexual relationships”. This is confusing.
Albert Mohler says, “If the bible doesn’t speak clearly to the issue of homosexuality, it doesn’t speak clearly to anything.” (Romans 1:19-28, 1 Cor 6:9-11, Jude 7) To justify homosexuality biblically, you have to do interpretive gymnastics to justify what is explicit and uncompromising, that is, homosexual desire and practice is sin.
We must stay dependent on the authority of Scripture because the fallen human mind is supremely capable of infinite rationalization.
We must understand the doctrine of sin and Christ’s victory over it. Secular culture says, “You were born this way, so embrace your identity and press for full rights as a normalization of your lifestyle.” Gods Word outlines that we were born totally deprave (Romans 3:10-26). Whether our preference is heterosexual or homosexual we all must repent of our sin and turn towards God.
God’s grace will always provide what his grace requires of us. God’s grace will bring a re-ordering of affections and priorities in our hearts and minds, even if the residue of temptation causes us to walk with a limp for the rest of our lives (1 Cor 10:13 answers this issue). Homosexuals are not a class of persons who are beyond the grace of God to change their lives.
We must love homosexuals more than homosexuals love homosexuality. Too many people have reduced their identity to their sexual preference. This is called idolatry! Sexuality is an important part of life but only one aspect of it. We weren’t created for sexual pleasure, alone, as the meaning of life but for relationship with God. Our love must be tenacious enough to love people more than they love their sin. Homosexuality is not a special category of human sinfulness outside of God’s grace.
In conclusion, the church must engage in compassionate truth-telling and celebrate what brings glory to God above all. We must love homosexuals so much that we refuse to accept the very concept of homosexual marriage. Normalizing homosexual behaviour through redefining marriage will take sin to a new level and institutionalize idolatry to the point that God’s truth will be suppressed. Marriage between a husband and wife as a norm declares the glory of God in the most holy way. The creation mandate of marriage (Gen 2) stands as a monument to the only right ordering of human relationships. If we normalize sexual misbehavior, we have to de-normalize marriage.
For the church, marriage isn’t up for political or cultural debate, it’s a theological and spiritual issue that goes to the core of humanity. Marriage isn’t an invention of our culture, it’s the invention of God.
The Greek word for ‘sexual immorality’ in 1 Corinthians 6:18 is pornea which means, “writings of the prostitutes” and is where we get the english word pornography from. When God says to flee from pornea, he’s saying to flee from everything associated with sexual sin, including viewing porn.
Porn origins date back to the technologies of the ancient Romans and Greeks throughout 1st century. By the 18th Century porn exploded in a big way when John Cleland produced the landmark work, “Memoirs of a woman of pleasure”. This book wasn’t available in the USA until the 1960’s. In the 50s no store carried soft porn. In the 60s Playboy was available behind the counter. In the 70s and 80s Penthouse magazine joined Playboy on the shelf, accessible to the eyes of children and from the 90s to the present day, porn is available at the push of a button. It’s only taken 40 years from porn to move from a store shelf to a nude pic on your iPhone. We are a sexualized society and we are de-sensitized to the damaging effects of porn.
- Currently Pornography is a $56 billion dollar industry.
- Over 4 million Australians access porn weekly.
- Playboy website has 5 million hits daily.
- 13 million human beings are trafficked every year for porn and prostitution.
- There are 200,000 porn sites on the internet.
- Average age of viewing porn is 11 years old.
- The fastest growing child-porn producers are 10-14 year old boys.
- Over 5 million videos are available depicting rape-porn.
- Porn is a major issue in the church with 47% of Christians claiming it’s an issue.
- If the church stopped consuming porn 1/3 of the porn industry would stop.
- Porn was used as a tool to prime allied soldiers before sending them to Iraq.
- A Canberra sex hospital has reported a 5000% increase in child-sex abuse due to easy access to porn.
- Over 95% of sex offenders claim to have used porn before they committed sex crime
- Reports of sex clubs starting in Primary Schools are emerging with sexting being the new rage amongst teens.
Ahh… we have a problem! Firstly, don’t underestimate the impact of porn consumption on your mind, body, spirit, finances and relationships. Second, If you are caught right now in the clutches of porn, the only way you’ll get free is through repentance, praying for the fear of the Lord and getting accountability into your life.
The core issue biblically is lust. There are a mountain of verses on lust. Here is a key passage (Matthew 5:27-29). We have to move beyond just white-knuckling to obey the letter of the law and embrace the spirit of the law through a heart transformation (Mark 7:21-23). Out of the heart flow the springs of life, that’s why we need to guard it.
Make a decision today, like Job 31:1 that you will make a covenant with God and your eyes to not look at a girl lustfully.
According to Sir Wiki, “Body image refers to a person’s perception of the aesthetics and sexual attractiveness of his or her own body.” The phrase was first created by Austrian psychoanalyst Paul Schilder in his seminal work in 1935. Our personal experiences, personality and cultural forces all contribute to shaping the way we think about ourselves.
Body image has become a god to many westerners, due to the sexualization of our culture. We go to extreme lengths to look a certain way and act a certain way for our sense of significance and for the notice of others or both.
As I read the bible, I don’t see God having a problem with people looking after their bodies or wearing fashionable clothing but I do see a problem when we have made our own image more important to us than being made in the image of God himself and thus worshipping him.
Romans 1:22-25 perfectly describes the current state of our culture.
“Claiming to be wise, they become fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God, for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator.”
How much of your time is taken up with thinking, dreaming and working towards the ideal image of yourself? Have you exchanged worship of God’s glory for your own glory? How is this working for you? Are you joy-filled or discontent?
A person’s identity must be found in Christ and Christ alone. Genesis 1-2 outlines that every male and female on the planet has been made in the image of God. We have been created to worship God and steward what God gives to us, which includes our bodies, clothing, possessions and money.
Jesus made himself of no reputation but abandoned himself to the Father’s pleasure and will. What image are you trying to portray to others? Leave the pretenses behind and just pursue God. God is more than capable of helping you find your identity in him and not in the cultural forces around you.
My preaching philosophy is centralized on expository preaching, which is a commitment to preach in such a way that the big ideas of the text are drawn out of the text rather than the individuals personal ideas. Every preacher brings their bias to the text but our role is to discover the original sense and meaning of the passage we are dealing with and communicate it in a way that best represents the authors and ultimately God’s inspired and original intent.
My normal modus operandi is to preach through books of the bible as led by the Holy Spirit, as well as considering the needs or vision of the congregation. Apart from the Old Testament book of Song of Songs (Solomon) the issue of sexuality is laced right throughout the bible beginning in Genesis and finding considerable focus in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 6-7).
Sex is a thematic or topical doctrine to preach on and so I’ve had to study the bible for the variety of ways the issue of sex is dealt with in the text. Sex can also be a difficult topic to preach on, as there is so much cultural baggage, people carry with them into the sermon event. As well as this many people carry weights of sin, shame and pain into the sermon event and these can often preclude them from opening their hearts to hear what God wants to say about the issue.
For all the same reasons, preaching on sex is also easy because people are primed to hear God’s perspective on the issue due to the amount of confusion and secrecy there seems to be about the unspoken topic, especially in church circles. There are only a few times you don’t need to work hard to keep people’s attention, talking about sex is guaranteed to be one of them, where people are very attentive.
Here are some of my thoughts on approaching the topic of sex in the preaching context:
- Prepare thoroughly – Too many of us preachers shoot from the hip and underestimate how educated our audience really is. Read widely and keep up to date with the current stats and trends of all things sexual in our culture. Some of the books and articles I studied for the series, included, “Real Marriage” by Mark and Grace Driscoll; “Sex and the Supremacy of Christ” by John Piper and Justin Taylor; “From Good Man to Valiant Man” by Dr Allan Meyer and several online articles. As well as this I did my exegesis on the texts used throughout the series and listened to several sermons preached by other trusted sources on the sex texts concerned.
- Seek advice – None of us knows everything and I have learnt to lean on mentors like Dr Allan Meyer who completed his doctoral studies on the issue of sexual addiction.
- Just say it – Too many of us shy away from unpacking the issues surrounding terms like, masturbation, oral sex, cybersex, sex toys, etc because of the ‘blush’ factor involved. However, the spirit of the culture is more than prepared to have the conversation and pervert God’s original intention for sex in marriage. Be prepared to go there, your audience will appreciate it. In talking about God creating sex for pleasure, I talked about the woman’s ‘clitoris’ and God’s intention for it to be a pleasure organ, not useful for anything else other than a wife’s pleasure in sex with her husband.
- Help people don’t condemn people – Sex tends to be an avoided preaching topic and if its is touched on, it’s talked about in a condemning way, which gives people the idea that God is dead against it. I have tried to not only inform people as to what the text is saying but apply it for people in a practical way that has left me receiving some of the greatest feedback I’ve ever had on a series. God is for sex and created it for several reasons in the marriage relationship (protection, comfort, pleasure, pro-creation, oneness, healing, theology…) to name a few.
- Move the sermon from the pulpit into the church community – Giving people helpful resources like books to compliment the series as well as sermon outlines and study guides for the life group meetings during the week.
- Practice what you preach – This is the fun part. As always don’t simply be a mouthpiece but be a practitioner of what you are learning and growing in. Needless to say the pastors personal marriage should benefit from a focused series on this topic.
Our outline for the “Lets talk about Sex” series looks like the following:
- Week 1 – Theology of Sex (am) and Sexual Healing (pm)
- Week 2 – Sex: God, Gross or Gift?
- Week 3 – Christians response to homosexual marriage
- Week 4 – Porn again Christian
- Week 5 – Special guest Sy Rogers: Seminar and Outreach
Corinth was a city, not unlike Melbourne in that it was the epi-centre of everything cool, cultural and sexual. Recently, I came across a stat that said there are more brothels in Melbourne than McDonald restaurants. This is indicative of the sexualisation of our culture and its idolatry of it.
In v12 Paul is quoting what the Corinthians would say when arguing for freedom of sexual expression. Just because it seems like everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean it’s right or even helpful. The stats tell us that 86% of men and 83% of women believe sex before marriage is ok. Society says, “We are 2 consenting adults and we live together and we’re married in our hearts. So whats the problem?”
The problem is we are approaching our bodies, sexuality and relationships from a fallen and misinformed perspective, rather than Gods perspective. Gods standards are higher than the culture around us.
V12 asks us to consider 3 questions when thinking about sex:
- Is it Lawful? Does the sexual act violate Gods laws and societies laws?
- Is it helpful? Does the sexual act pull a marriage together or apart?
- Is it enslaving? Does the sexual act promote obsessive, unhealthy behavior?
Grace! (More to come this week)
Real Marriage is a book written by Mark and Grace Driscoll and it is explosive in its dealings with the issues of sexuality and friendship in marriage. It’s a must read going where no marriage book, I’ve read has gone before. Biblically sound and practically helpful.
quote of the week
“Fame doesn’t cure pain, it multiplies it.” Dr Mike Murdock
moment of the week
I am a part of the Advance Network which is a group of pastors, leaders, church planters and potential church planters focused on growing as followers of Christ as we seek to proclaim the gospel and bring glory to God through the vehicle of church planting. Wednesday night we launched for 2012 and it was a fantastic time with fellow brothers in Christ.
news of the week
Monday’s events revealed to us, once again the Labor Party has shown the Australian Public that it is in desperate need of of an overhaul beginning with the point leader.
book of the week
Gary McIntosh has written a provocative little book titled, “One size doesn’t fit all”. It’s a book that looks at the different dynamics of churches, whatever the size. Too often we attempt to super-impose the structures and systems of a larger church onto a smaller church without taking into consideration the unique dynamics of each local church. This book has a fantastic summary chart of the authors insight into church life and I’ve recently been able to take my staff through the process of evaluating where we are at. A great read for pastors and those leaders interested in church growth and health dynamics.
quote of the week
The Church isn’t simply alive to sing hymns but to rebuild broken lives. (Allan Meyer – Life Keys)
moment of the week
Life Group on Wednesday night with 4 new Christians attending was just fantastic. It was refreshing to see such passion and faith.
news of the week
New series launches at Activate Church in March 2012, “Lets talk about SEX”. Follow sermon podcast at http://www.activatechurch.com
book of the week
Sex and the Supremacy of Christ is not just another book on sex but it lifts our gaze to consider the God who made us sexual creatures for his glory. In a world where sex has become an idol and cheap, this book reflects on the bible’s teaching of such topics as sex and the single, homosexual marriage, restoring the sexually broken and sex, romance the glory of Christ. The editors John Piper and Justin Taylor have brought together several contributers for this project and the content within it has definitely sharpened my thinking on the topic.
quote of the week
Anonymous comment to my blog post ‘Jesus didn’t die for gold dust’, “To unbelievers, gold dust is bull dust.”
news of the week
Activate’s creative director Sam Jervis is launching his debut album, “Heart Aflame” on Saturday May 26, 2012 at Activate Church. Tickets will be available in the near future. I’ll provide a link in the coming weeks.
moment of the week
I was sick earlier in the week but the highlight would have been discipling a new Christian on Thursday night. He is like a sponge, hungry to devour every bit of information and insight he can. It’s refreshing to find someone so eager to grow in Christ. His potential is huge.