Discernment vs. Dismissal

Posted: January 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

As disciples of Christ, the bible calls us to try and discern what is pleasing to the Lord. (Ephesians 5:10) This involves a great deal of prayer and Spirit given wisdom, grace and humility. We all face hundreds of decisions every day that require discernment… from the shows we watch to the websites we visit to the books we read.

Now to be sure, there are going to be certain books, for example, that we will dismiss all together as garbage. But there is also going to be a lot of them that will require careful discernment on our part. Even those, or should I say especially those, in our local Christian bookstore.

Take for example the latest offering by Pastor Mark Driscoll and his wife Grace. The two have just released a book called Real Marriage which has garnered quite a bit of attention for its frank discussion on the issue of sex in one of its chapter. Now on the one hand I believe that it would be a mistake to dismiss it all together. But on the other hand, from what I have read about it, I am also quite concerned with some of its explicit content. As such, I would highly recommend this review by Professor Denny Burk.

That said, I am very thankful for Pastor Mark’s gospel-centred ministry and the way he has chosen to engage the culture. Never one to back down from a fight, Pastor Mark has worked hard at trying to apply the gospel to his generation. As a result, he has gained a voice with the mainstream media. Take for example this article he just wrote for Fox News…

Sex is a selfish act, a conquest of personal fulfillment. That’s the mindset of most people in our culture regarding sex—even if it’s only subconscious. For the most part, our society celebrates the process of hook up, shack up, and break up.

All you have to do is take a moment to observe the way sex is communicated in our culture.

Thousands of articles are churned out on how to cope with a past of multiple partners and how to find the next one.

Porn is a massive industry, generating $10 to $14 billion annually in revenues.

Nearly every sitcom on the air seems to make light of sleeping around, and films like “No Strings Attached” and “Friends with Benefits” lure young eyes to the theater, while a sex-crazed Tucker Max boasts about his conquests and skyrockets to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, becoming a cult hero for young slackers everywhere.

It also explains why sex trafficking is a $32 billion global industry, 45,000 to 50,000 young girls are trafficked in the United States every year, and why one in 12 youths experience sexual victimization, including sexual assault and attempted or completed rape.

The problem, however, is not sex.

It’s us.

In order to understand this, we must first understand the underlying cause of all the problems in this world: sin.

In the Bible, Paul says of the human condition:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became 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 worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!” Amen (Romans 1:21-25).

And in case you think Paul is on some self-righteous kick to condemn sinners, he makes clear in the same letter that all of humanity is in the same boat, writing, “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things” (Romans 2:1).

And to drive the point home, he writes, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Thankfully, he also adds, “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:23-25).

The point is this: as humans, we’re all sinners and all in need of God’s grace, given freely through Jesus. And apart from Jesus, we all pervert God’s good gifts, such as sex.

Thankfully, God is also merciful and loving. This is why he sent us Jesus to save us from our sin, and it is also why he gave us the Bible to help us understand his plan for a life that honors him and as a result leads to true fulfillment.

The Bible has a lot to say about sex—including that it’s good and that it glorifies God when we enjoy sex in the context for which He created it.

So, I thought I’d share seven sex essentials from the Bible that my wife Grace and I included in our new book, “Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, & Life Together”:

1. God created us male and female in His image and likeness with dignity, equality, value, and worth. Men and women are different and complement one another (Genesis 1:27-28).

2. Love is more like a song than a math equation. It requires a sense of poetry and passion to be any good at it, which is why people who are stuck in their heads struggle and are frustrated by it, and lovers prefer songs to syllogisms (Song of Solomon, all of it).

3. Marriage is for one man and one woman by God’s design. This is the consistent teaching of the Bible from the table of contents to the appendix and the teaching of Jesus Christ Himself (Genesis 2:24-25, Matthew 19:4).

4. God created sex. God made our bodies “very good” with “male and female” parts and pleasures. When our first parents consummated their covenant, God was not shocked or horrified, because He created our bodies for sex. The reason that sex is fun, pleasurable, and wonderful is because it is a reflection of the loving goodness of God who created it as a gift for us to steward and enjoy (Genesis 2:24-25).

5. Sex outside of marriage is a sin.
 Sinful sex includes homosexuality, erotica, bestiality, bisexuality, fornication, friends with benefits, adultery, swinging, prostitution, incest, rape, polygamy, polyandry, sinful lust, pornography, and pedophilia (I Corinthians 6:9-11,18-20, Hebrews 13:4).

6. Sex is to be done in such a way that there is no shame
 (Genesis 2:25; Proverbs 5:18-23). Many people experience shame in regard to sex. Sometimes shame is a gift from God in response to our sexual sin, sometimes it is the devastating feeling we bear because we have been sexually sinned against, and other times we have not sinned or been sinned against sexually but feel shame because we have wrong thinking and feelings about sex in general, or a sex act in particular.

7. Your standard of beauty is your spouse. God made one man and one woman. He did not ask them if they wanted someone tall or short, light or heavy, pale or dark skinned, with long or short hair. In short, He did not permit them to develop a standard of beauty. Instead, He gave them each a spouse as a standard of beauty (Genesis 2:23, Proverbs 6:20-35).

I understand that I’m writing to an audience that may not consist entirely of  Christian believers, including some who may even be hostile to Christianity. I also understand that many of these points will either rub some of you the wrong way or even enrage you. But, I make no apologies for the Bible and what it says.

I will say this, however… I don’t write them to condemn you, nor does the Bible. Rather, I ask you to consider your motivations for sex.

Have you ever truly given yourself to someone selflessly to love them, explore them, and cherish them until death do you part? Have you spent your life pursuing pleasure instead of seeking to give pleasure to a lifelong spouse? And, are you truly happy and fulfilled with your sex life?

The problem isn’t our partners. It’s us. We’ve perverted sex and misused it. God’s way is the best way, and I encourage you to humbly pray and think about what he has to say about us and sex in his word, the Bible.

As someone who was sexually active before becoming a Christian, I don’t consider myself more holy than anyone else. But, after experiencing Jesus’ forgiveness, becoming a Christian, understanding what the Bible teaches about sex, having massive change in my thoughts and actions about sex, marrying, and today, happily and faithfully married to the same woman for what is approaching 20 years, I sincerely want you to experience the fullness of what God has for you in Jesus Christ.

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 ESV)

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