Day 46: Marriage


A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN... LITERALLY

God created sex to be purely fantastic! As we move forward in exposing how the enemy attempts to thwart sexuality, it is absolutely imperative that we not lose sight of the truth: sex is meant to be good. In fact, God practically commands Adam and Eve to indulge in one another in Genesis 1:28 where he states, "Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the Earth..." So where does sex begin to go wrong? When we remove it from marriage. Scripture repeatedly states that husband and wife are "joined together" and "become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24, Ephesians 5:31).

The apex of sex is the intimate union of husband and wife. Notice we aren't saying, "man and woman," but "husband and wife." This is not only a union between the sexes, but a joining of those who have committed their selves to one another in a lifelong vow. Can you see why engaging in sexual relationships outside of marriage is such a problem? Sex is meant to be enjoyed in the safety of a committed, God-ordained marriage. Yet our culture tells us that we should demand sexual satisfaction on our terms. Imagine if we took other important acts outside of their framework:

  • Buying a home and splitting a mortgage with a girl you met online only minutes ago
  • Accepting a job with a company and all you know is what their logo looks like
  • Telling your closest kept secrets to someone you pass by on the sidewalk

These scenarios seem ridiculous, yet we do the same thing with our sexuality. We all too quickly become involved in sexual relationships well before we are meant to. The reality of the weight behind our sexuality takes us off guard - we thought "it was only" sex, pretend, fantasy, masturbation, or pornography, when in reality it was our very heart. We don't expect the vulnerability and heartache that come along the ride with us. Somewhere, we made the incorrect assumption that it is okay to have at least some kind of appetizer to sex. So, where did this incorrect assumption come from?

WHERE IT ALL WENT WRONG...

A friend and I, when we were newly married, considered the differences between what pornography and Hollywood make out sex to be versus what we experienced in our marriages. Hollywood/Pornography show sex as: Exciting, Unexpected, Passionate, Clean, Pleasurable, Easy, and Sexy. Reality: Sex is oftentimes planned and predictable (how does tonight sound?), confusing (I thought you said you wanted me? Where should I go?), it can be disrupted (I think I heard the kids), it can be exhausting, both people don't always want it, emotions can get in the way, it can be messy (I'll spare you the details), sometimes it doesn't feel good and can even be painful, and sometimes you can feel downright ridiculous (after all, another person is staring at you naked).

Our culture portrays fake sexuality that promises to give us all the good things we expect from sex without taking or expecting anything from us. Don't get me wrong, sex can be absolutely amazing, but what we are exposed to sets us up with false expectations and trains us to turn to the wrong places to meet sexual urges. In other words, when we find that sex in marriage isn't what we imagined, it can be alluring to turn back to whatever gave you those impressions in the first place. We can damage the one place our sexuality is meant to be expressed before we even get there.

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. -Hebrews 13:4

Keeping the "marriage bed" pure begins long before we've said our vows to our spouse. It starts the moment we are washed clean from our prior transgressions - with the acceptance of Christ. Healing from accepting freedom through Christ doesn't simply free us from our past sins, but also means that we surrender whatever assumptions we made from those past transgressions (e.g. "My wife will love having sex." "It'll be easy.") From that point on, we work to not defile our sexuality by having a disciplined stance to sexual content.

INTIMACY

Yet, the point of marriage isn't just so that we can have guilt-free sex. Making a vow to give up sexual sin as long as God provides sex in marriage is not a realistic bargain. You could decide to give up pornography or sexual online relationships and you might never marry. So then, what is the point of establishing and maintaining sexual purity?

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a profound mystery -- but I am talking about Christ and the church. -Ephesians 5:31-32

Sex, from the very beginning, has been about intimacy with God. Jesus even refers to himself as our "Bridegroom" (gospel of John). So how does our sexuality represent our relationship to God? First, consider the last lesson. When we accept Christ we have been entirely cleansed from our sins and are freed to live righteously. Ephesians 5:26-27 explains how Jesus washed us clean, like a bride being prepared on her wedding day. He desires for us to be pure when we ultimately are reunited with him. We will defile ourselves if we return to our old sins. Scripture explains that when we have sexual relationships with others, we unite ourselves to them, when we should be united with Christ:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, "THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH." But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. - 1 Corinthians 6:15-17

Our sexuality not only dictates the master of our heart (when we surrender our sexuality to God), it also becomes a mechanism by which we experience God's heart towards us. If Christ is our Bridegroom and Earthly marriage and sexual union is only a dim example of his union with us, then our sexual longings are a shadow of how Jesus longs for intimacy with us: his church and bride. This means that whenever we feel any sort of sexual longing, we can turn to Jesus with them and, rather than gratifying them in the moment, consider them as reminders of how much more He longs for us. When we feel desire, we touch on only a portion of how Jesus desires us. In reality, doing this requires a heart that is willing to ache, wait, and turn to God in the midst of longing for sexuality and intimacy.

THE SANCTITY OF MARRIAGE

Now we realize that not all coming to this course are married, but there is something to be learned whether you're single or married. God takes marriage seriously. It is the one institution where he permits we indulge our sexuality.

But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. -1 Corinthians 7:9

Paul was addressing marriage on many levels in this chapter. He begins by addressing the sexual immorality that was occurring. It is heavily implied that sexual immorality was happening in the Corinth church and Paul was rebuking them in this letter.

Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. -Hebrews 13:4

Another take-away from this is that there is no other institution where sex is permitted. In our failure we’ve begun to realize God made it this way for a reason. There were times in my struggle where I sank so far into darkness that I even began to hate God.

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. -Matthew 6:24

When sexual sin becomes a habit, you slowly start to resent God, as I did. I felt that God was not providing for me sexually and therefore I deserved to give into things like self-gratification and pornography. Sin has a way of twisting our views, turning us against God. We are filled up with pride and blinded by the darkness. Our sin takes us captive, and we become its slave:

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So in marriage alone, we are to find sexual pleasure. In marriage alone a man and a woman can unite on this front. A God honoring marriage will never make slaves of the couple through sexuality. If you are single, understand that God's design is better than our design. We create something fake and artificial (self-gratification) and He has created something real and fulfilling (marital sex). Don’t be fooled by the lies of the enemy.

As we have examined in today's lesson, sex, marriage, and God are all intimately connected with one another. The marriage bed is a sacred place for the wonder and vulnerability of sex to be explored, and it is the only place where we are to arouse desire and engage with one another sexually. Keeping the marriage bed pure begins long before we are married, but this is not the ultimate point of sexual purity. How we handle sex has implications for what our relationship with Christ is like - we can keep ourselves pure to honor him as Lord of our body, and we can surrender our longings to him so that we can know His longings more intimately. If we ache, how much more does he ache for us to be with Him?

Day 46 Application

From your experience with sexual sin, specifically the road it takes you down, why do you think Paul warns us about the dangers of “burning with passion”?

From your own experience, why do you think God limits sexual intimacy to the confines of marriage?

Ephesians 5:29-32 relates sex to God's relationship with us, his church. What, do you think, is the "mystery" Paul is talking about in this passage? What does sex have to do with your relationship with Christ?

Have you been honest and vulnerable with your accountability partner? Since the last lesson, how have you been with maintaining your sexual purity?