IntroductionI have to start by saying that I'm walking into a minefield today.
So I'm begging your forgiveness in advance.
The other thing we all have to contend with is an overwhelming cynicism about faithful relationships, marriage in particular. We can probably all think of jokes like “marriage isn't a word, it's a sentence.” or “marriage is a three ring circus: engagement ring, wedding ring, suffering.” And have you seen the bumper sticker that instead of saying “Baby on board,” says “Ex-husband in boot.”?
So we begin at a disadvantage, as though we're on the back foot, trying to defend marriage. Adultery has never been more popular. Good heavens, it's even got a website!
The value of sexPeople often object to Christianity saying that it's all "don't do this, don't do that." But sometimes the rules are there to protect us.
Right at the start of the Bible, we read that God created man and woman for relationship and partnership.
The principle behind sex is threefold: leaving, joining, uniting.
LeavingThe man and woman leave their families and create a new unit
JoiningThey come together to share everything
UnitingBy the act of sex, they become one. So sexual activity is a vital part of a marriage relationship.
So it is a precious gift from God and a vital part of our makeup. It isn't dirty or shabby. In its right place it is beautiful and good. Because it it created by God, it is special and shouldn't be cheapened.
It involves the core of our lives. Not just a more intimate version of shaking hands, or a game for consenting adults, it involves powerful psychological and spiritual processes.
Because it has such high value, God gives this command against adultery. So sex has only one place: inside marriage.
So I want to talk about vulnerability, vigilance and virtue this morning, and in between we'll have a couple of don'ts.
Our vulnerability to sexConsider the story of David.
There are countless other examples of lives ruined, careers and reputations destroyed and families devastated. Sex can easily take the place of God in our lives. When the hormones start pumping, everything else, morality, habit, common sense, all take a back seat.
And it is so attractive.
Ever heard of a magazine devoted to anger? Or a website for online coveting? A film with explicit scenes of, wait for it, Sabbath breaking? Thought not.
So we ask need a healthy respect for the power of sexual temptation. It has destroyed better men and women than you and I.
Our need for vigilance with sexBecause of its power, we need to be extra careful. Jesus warned about the power of the eyes. Look away, he said, lustful thoughts are as bad as adulterous acts. A marriage can be broken by adultery without the physical act. If one partner is full of desire for someone else, the exclusive union on physical, emotional and intellectual levels has been impaired.
What's the point of this? Just to make us feel really guilty? No. But if we imagine sex with someone other than our husband or wife and say to ourselves "I will never go there," we haven't done enough. We need to draw the line much further out. By the time you get to the bedroom door, it's probably already too late.
Don't assume you are safe from sexual temptationWe may think we are secure in our marriage, or in our singleness, but remember 1 Corinthians 10.12.
Whether married or single, stay above board in all you do. Make sure no ambiguity can spring up between us and someone else. Ask yourself the question "would I say or do this if my spouse were standing here beside me?"
Be accountable. Is there someone you could share your temptations and pressures with?
Deepen your spiritual life. Root your life in the rich soil of God's confirming love.
Keep busy, doing what you are supposed to be doing. David was idle, that's why he succumbed to temptation.
Don't play with sexual temptationThere was nothing wrong in David being on the roof of his palace. There was nothing wrong in noticing a beautiful woman. But he didn't need to make enquiries to find out Bathsheba's name. He certainly didn't need to send for her. Turn away from the slightest act or thought, and the next step will never happen.
If sin has occurred, repent immediately, don't make it worseConfession is better than cover up, repentance now better than revelations later. It's the devil's lie to say you're in so deep you might as well keep going.
The virtue of forgivenessEven the best marriage falls short of the ideal. But God doesn't just judge those who fail, he forgives those who repent and strengthens those who strive to keep his standards.
And if you have become a Christian after a history of several sexual experiences, you may have a tangled history that you bring with you. The church should be a place that welcomes and accepts you, however you have come, while still holding out the ideal of sexual purity.
ConclusionAlthough God made us for relationship and friendship, this need not involve sex. Modern society comes down hard on single people. It says you must be frustrated, a failure or a freak. That lie causes harm beyond measure.
Jesus was single, are you going to call him a failure or a freak?
We have to say that sex is the sealing of a marriage relationship, and is entirely appropriate and right within that relationship, and entirely inappropriate and wrong outside it.
Because of its value sex should not be treated lightly. Because of its power it should not be treated casually. The Bible's standard is viewed either with amazement, contempt or disbelief. Increasingly the way Christians deal with sex will make us stand out.