Keeping Sex within Marriage
By Pastor Michael Olawore
New Wine Church, London
Foundation Scripture: Psalm 128:1 - 6
Sunday 25th May 2014
During Family Convention 2014 we have looked at a wide range of issues as they relate to the family, in the following messages: ‘The Blueprint for a Flourishing Family’, ‘The Code for a Flourishing Marriage’ and ‘The Strategy for Raising Flourishing Children’. As we approach the conclusion of Family Convention, we will today focus on a key area of importance in enjoying a flourishing life: keeping sex sacred, namely keeping sex within marriage.
The foundation scripture, Psalm 128 begins with the truth: ‘Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways’. What follows is a flourishing family structure which is based on these two key principles: the fear of the Lord and walking in His ways. In the course of our journey through life, we need to keep these notions close to our hearts and accordingly, make a commitment to building our lives on these pivotal foundations. The person who walks in the fear of the Lord walks in wisdom as they operate their lives according to the boundaries that He has set. The commitment to walking in God’s ways arises from the understanding that although there are many alternative ways of life open to us, walking in God’s way is the only way in which to flourish. Whilst Psalm 128: 1-6 highlights the fear of the Lord and walking in His ways as guarantees for a flourishing life, the absence of the fear of the Lord and a refusal to follow His ways will inevitably result in the wastage, deterioration and depletion of life.
The prevailing attitude towards sex in the modern day world is one of the many ways in which mankind has blatantly disregarded God and unashamedly refused to follow His ways. Sadly, even in the church of Jesus Christ, we have embraced the ways of the world and in doing so, have defiled that which was meant to be holy. It is important for us to address this issue head-on as one of the ways to keep yourself from flourishing in life is to engage in sexual intimacy outside marriage. A lack of understanding and discipline regarding sex has caused nobles to fail, kings to desecrate their thrones and abort their destiny. Believers too have fallen into traps designed by the devil.
Sex has become a commodity with sexual images being used to market every conceivable product. Sexuality is promoted according to the world’s principles in schools, offices, government circles and also, sadly, in churches. Schools in our nation take pride in informing children that it is okay to have sex as long as it is done with condoms or contraceptives. We are bombarded everyday by images reinforcing our sexuality and challenging our convictions about it. God’s position is abundantly clear: He said in the seventh commandment, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ A clear instruction is given to believers in Ephesians 5:3 (NLT), ‘Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God's people.’ God is holy. Light and darkness cannot co-exist and neither can God’s glory and impurity. God’s standard and position is clear: sexual activity may only take place within the confines of marriage. It is a defiling offence outside the confines of the marriage covenant. Society and government policy may be at odds with God’s position but God’s position is not subject to public opinion. He is a holy, sovereign God and His ways are right.
God created sex and created the boundaries within which it is permitted. God’s design is that sexual activity is to take place within the confines of marriage; that is, marriage between a man and a woman. The first time that sex is mentioned in the bible is in Genesis 4:1. Here, Adam and his wife, Eve had sex which resulted in her becoming pregnant and having a baby. Notice the order: marriage, sex and then pregnancy. Anything that is outside this pattern is outside the will of God. I am not looking to condemn anyone; if you have indulged in sexual activity outside marriage, you can repent and receive forgiveness and move on, however it is important that we arrive at a clear understanding of God’s position in order that we may flourish in life. Sex was created for marriage. It was created to glorify God rather than to gratify mankind or to serve a purely biological function. It is an inauguration of the marriage covenant much in the same way that baptism serves as an outward statement of commitment to Christ. The regular recurrence of sex throughout the marriage serves as reminder of the covenant relationship much in the same way that communion is taken in remembrance of the covenant relationship with Christ. Sexual intimacy is important in marriage as it strengthens the union by renewing the covenant. That is why the bible forbids husbands and wives to deprive each other of sex in marriage. 1 Corinthians 7: 3-6 (NLRT) says, ‘The husband should fulfill his wife's sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband's needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife. Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won't be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control’. Sex was designed to affirm the covenant in marital relationship for a lifetime. It was created as a gateway to fulfilling God’s mandate to multiply and fill the earth. It was a channel by which the seed of a man and the seed of a woman in marriage meet together to become life as God intended. It was created to strengthen the covenant of oneness in marriage. Adultery defiles the covenant and breaks the bond of oneness.
In Numbers 25: 1-3, we see the effects of sex outside the confines of God’s design. Here, some Israelite men had sex with Moabite women who then lured them into worshipping Baal. The bible records that their actions caused the Lord’s anger to ‘burn against them’. In 2 Samuel 12, when David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then arranged for her husband to be killed in battle, the bible records that David’s actions ‘greatly displeased the Lord’. God’s view regarding sexual immorality in the New Testament is consistent; Hebrews 13:4 (NLT) says, ‘Give honour to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.’ The Message translation of Hebrews 13: 4 states, ‘God draws a firm line against casual and illicit (unlawful, dishonest, illegitimate) sex’. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, God’s position on sexual immorality is clear, consistent and unchanging. God expects sex to be confined to marriage. In 1 Corinthians 6:13-20 Paul makes clear that the body is not made for sexual immorality and tells us that our bodies, which are parts of Christ’s body, are for the Lord. He goes on to state that sexual union results in oneness, in the conjoining of the two parties; the result therefore is that whatever the person with whom you are having illicit sexual activity with is carrying, both spiritually and physically, becomes part of you and what you are carrying part of them as, ‘the two become one’. The importance of understanding fully the connotations involved in illicit sexual activity cannot be overstated as it is this that enables us to ensure that boundaries are not crossed. Paul concludes his discourse on sexual immorality with a word of advice which is ‘flee from it!’ There are many battles that believers are called to fight however this is not one of them. We are not instructed to speak in tongues when faced with sexual immorality but to flee from it. You are not as strong as you think you are and there is no other sin that affects the body in the way that sexual immorality does as it is a sin against your very self. It defiles, debases and degrades the body, which is the ‘temple of the Holy Spirit.’ We do not belong to ourselves but have been bought at a price and are called to honour God with our bodies. Romans 12:1 instructs us to ‘present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God which is our reasonable service.’
In Matthew 5: 27, we see that Jesus went beyond the literal requirements of the law and equated the sin of adultery to that of looking lustfully at a woman, diagnosing the real issue as being one of the heart. Adultery does not just happen. The act of adultery is a product of what has been going on in the heart. The fact that there has been no physical intimacy does not mean there has been no adultery as sex does not start with the act but with the heart; what ends in the bed starts in the head. Whilst the law focused on the action, Jesus focused on the attitude of the heart which leads to the act. In order to fix the act, you’ve got to fix the heart because the act comes from the heart. Jesus advocated a zero-tolerance position regarding sin, instructing his followers to gauge out their good eye if it leaves them susceptible to sin. This was not a literal instruction but a metaphorical illustration of the importance of paying attention to what we look at and also, a stark warning of the dangers of fantasizing. Brothers, what you look at will determine what goes on in your heart and what goes on in your heart will eventually translate into what you do with your body. To the sisters, I would issue a reminder to be careful not to expose yourself unduly. 1 Corinthians 6: 12 says that whilst all things are permissible, not all things are appropriate. You are fearfully and wonderfully made; you are not a commodity.
The good news is that God forgives! It doesn’t matter what you’ve exposed yourself to, there is forgiveness and grace in God. John 8:2-11 tells the story of the woman caught in the very act of adultery being brought by the Pharisees to Jesus whom were hoping to exploit the situation in order to accuse Him. Jesus however whilst refusing to condone her actions or condemn the woman to death by stoning in accordance with law of Moses, stated , ‘Let he who is without sin throw the first stone’. He then told the woman, ‘Neither do I condemn you; Go and sin no more.’ In Jesus there is grace. There is forgiveness but there is the firm instruction, ‘Go and sin no more’. If you are struggling with the issue of illicit sex, there is grace available to you. The power and grip of sin over your life is broken and for liberty, you have been set free. The effects of sin are nullified and the hindrances that illicit sex have brought on your life are removed. No longer are you subjected to the yoke of slavery and bondage to sin.
You will flourish in life as you live in fear of the Lord and walk in His ways.
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