Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sex is a Mind Game: Part 1

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
Matthew 5:27-30

But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
James 1:14-15 

Following God’s plan for sex is about much more than just not going too far with your boyfriend or girlfriend. It is about purity. And the purity that God has called us to starts in the mind. Unless you can win the battle for mental purity, you won’t succeed at staying physically pure. Doug Fields talks about the fact that temptation begins in the mind. “A lot of people think that their strongest sexual organ is below their waist but it’s not. Let me tell you where your strongest sexual organ is, it’s your mind. A lot of us just think that sex is a physical thing. Sex is a mental thing as well.”*

Jesus makes this clear in the above passage of Scripture from His Sermon on the Mount. (It is important to note that in this passage Jesus is exaggerating to emphasize his point. He is using a literary device called hyperbole. Please do not go poke your eyes out, okay?) It is clear from His statement that what goes on in our minds is very important to Him. He says that lusting after a woman is just as sinful as having sex with her. But what is lust? Technically lust is simply a strong desire for something, but in this context we understand Jesus to mean it as longing for someone sexually, to think sexual thoughts about someone you do not have the right to think about that way. So if you are thinking sexually about someone to whom you are not married then you are lusting and it is a sin.

Looking at James 1:14-15, I think it is clear that the purer our minds are the easier it will be for us to control our bodies. So here are some helpful hints on how to keep your mind pure. First, you can make things easier on yourself by avoiding sexual content. If the TV shows and the movies and the music you listen to are constantly talking about sex, then guess what? You are going to think about it constantly and it is going to be hard for you not to lust. So make it easier on yourself and avoid putting this stuff into your head.

One thing I have tried to do to maintain my mental purity is that I don’t watch movies that have nudity in them. I know that I can’t look at naked women without lusting (I don't really think any straight man can) so I made the decision to not watch movies that have nudity in them. Fairly often a new and awesome action movie comes out that I want to see but I go to or and see if it has nudity. If it does, then my wife and I don’t watch it. Have I missed watching some movies I wanted to see? Yes, but it was worth it because I prevented myself from falling into sin. I think this is exactly the type of thing Jesus is talking about when He says "if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off." So don’t watch movies with nudity, don’t listen to music about sex, and don’t watch TV shows about it. Make your own life easier.

Second, when you aren't sure if you are lusting use the 'three looks and you're lusting' rule. I know it is cheesy but I learned it when I was in seventh grade and it has proven to be helpful for me. Let’s say that you see a beautiful (but scantily) clad woman or man walking down your street. The first look was unintentional. You couldn't help it. You were just out watering your lawn or whatever and they walked by. But sometimes, almost involuntarily, you look a second time to make sure you saw what you thought you saw the first time. You might say to yourself, was that person as hot as I think they were? You turn around and glance back only to realize that they were. But now you have a choice. You can turn around and stare at the person and try to take every part of their body in with your eyes or you can choose by God’s strength not to. If you choose to look that third time, or if you choose to entertain thoughts about that person then you are lusting.  Usually you are okay with that first or maybe even second look. It’s the third look that gets you. (Just to clarify these "looks" are glances. You can’t stare at someone for 2 minutes and say, “Oh, it’s okay I am still on my first look.”)

I want to close with a brainteaser. If I put a container in front of you and told you that your task was to get all of the air out of that container, how would you do it? Now it is very possible that you are smarter than I am and know of some sciency (oh it's a word) way to do this but the only way I know of is to fill the container all the way full with something else, e.g. water. The water would completely fill up all the empty space and push the air out. It can be the same with our minds. The best way to maintain purity is not merely to avoid putting bad things in our minds but to also fill our minds with pure thoughts. Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

For further reading...
  • Psalm 51- Pay special attention to verse 10 of this Psalm that David wrote as a confession of his sexual sin with Bathsheba.
  • Psalm 73- Check out this Psalm when you feel like keeping your mind pure is pointless (especially verse 13).
  • Romans 12:1-2- Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.   

* Doug Fields from "Best Sex Ever" series

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Gameplan for Dating

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 
1 Corinthians 6:18-20

A lot of times when we talk about a biblical view of sex people ask the question, “How far is too far?” That is a fair question and it is one that I will answer in the next few weeks, but it approaches the problem from the wrong angle. When you ask “How far is too far?” what you're really saying is that you want to go right up to the line and do as much as you possibly can without crossing it. A better question to ask would be, “How can I set boundaries around sex to honor God with my purity?”

Think about a bonfire. Bonfires are awesome. They keep you warm on a cold night. You can make s'mores with a bonfire. But if you get too close, if you stick your face right down next to the fire, then you get burned. Nobody asks “How close can I get to this bonfire without getting third degree burns?” Why do we ask that about sex? Instead of trying to do as much as you possibly can without losing your virginity, you should try to keep a safe distance. Try setting boundaries in your relationship. When you start dating someone, before you start kissing and stuff like that, sit down with them and talk about what each of you are comfortable with doing and what you are not willing to do. Talk about where your sexual line in the sand is. Don’t wait until you are alone and in the dark to have this conversation. Talk about it with the lights on before stuff starts happening. Ideally the man in the relationship should initiate this conversation as the biblical leader, but if he doesn't you cannot afford to wait for him to start grabbing stuff in the dark. Ladies, you may have to initiate this conversation yourselves. If he really cares about you then he shouldn’t push you to do things that you aren’t comfortable with. Likewise you shouldn't force him to do more than he is comfortable doing.

Now, what do you do if you are currently in a relationship that has already gone too far? It’s never too late to start over. You can’t undo what you have already done, but just because you did it once doesn’t mean you have to or should keep doing it. It is difficult to stop engaging in sexual activity after you have started it, but it isn’t impossible. Sit down with your boyfriend or girlfriend and have a conversation about what you are and are not willing to do from this point on. Just because you love the person doesn’t mean that anything goes sexually. The average girl falls in love 5-7 times before they get married and the average guys falls in love 3-5 times, so if you have sex with everyone you “fall in love” with, that’s how many sexual partners you will have.*

Today as we close I want you to think about giving priority to two relationships. First, I want you to give your relationship with your future husband or wife priority. This is a relationship that will last your whole life and you can’t know who this person will be until you stand before that preacher and get married, so choose to wait. Choose to honor that relationship. Give it priority; put it first. No matter how important the girlfriend or boyfriend you have right now is, your husband or wife will be more important. Second, I want you to give priority to the one relationship you can guarantee will last for all eternity…your relationship with God. God has told you what to do. Trust Him. Place Him ahead of your relationship with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Choose God’s way for sex over the world’s way or your boyfriend’s way…even over your own way. Trust me, God’s way is better.

For further reading...
  • Ruth- Check out a biblical romance.
* Doug Fields from "Best Sex Ever" series

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sex isn't Difficult

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8

Doug Fields tells an interesting anecdote about his dog. He claims that this dog is incredibly stupid. In fact, it may be the dumbest dog in the history of the world, he says. But even with how dumb his dog is Doug didn’t have to teach it how to have sex. He didn’t have to go get a little flip chart and draw pictures on it and go out into the backyard and teach his dog how to have sex. The dog figured it out on his own. This is because having sex isn’t difficult. You can have a brain the size of a finger nail, he says, and figure it out. And he is right. Having sex isn’t difficult, making wise decisions about sex is difficult.

This is even more true when you are dating. The Bible doesn’t talk a lot about dating specifically, but it teaches quite a bit about sex and other subjects that can be applied to dating. Take the above passage of Scripture for example. It presents a general truth about the nature of our enemy. It has nothing to do with sex specifically, and yet because it is true we know that it applies to sex as well. So the first thing you need to know if you are going to make wise sexual decisions is that you have an enemy. Over the past two weeks I have talked about how powerful sex is and that this power is what makes it awesome and fun; but this power is also what gives sex the potential to destroy people’s lives. Last week I gave a lot of statistics about the bad consequences sex before marriage can have on a person’s life. You need to know that the devil wants to trick you into experiencing that pain. He wants to convince that anything goes between two consenting adults, and that if you really love the person it's okay. He wants to see you struck down with an STD or to bring a child into this world out of wedlock. He wants to derail your life.

Scripture tells us that this world is under the control of Satan, so it shouldn’t surprise us at all that our world is so sex saturated. Now I want to say again that sex is not bad. Sex is awesome! God is not down on sex. It is His gift to us. But it has the potential to do damage precisely because it is so powerful. Satan has set our world up to try to tempt us into having sex in ways that maximize its potential for damage in our lives. God created sex to be had within marriage, so Satan uses movies, music, TV, magazines, pornography and much more to make sex between unmarried people (casual sex that is just for the fun of it) sound like the best kind of sex.

God sees things differently. He says…
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (I Corinthians 6:18-20)

So now that you know that there is an enemy that is trying hard to get you to destroy your life with sex, you have some decisions to make. Who are you going to listen to? Are you going to follow the world? Are you going to fall into the trap that your enemy has set for you? Or are you going to believe that God’s way is better? Are you going to choose to trust that God can give you the strength to wait? I wish I could choose for you, but I can't. I hope you will choose God’s way. Next week we are going to talk about how you can make a game plan for making it to your wedding day with your virginity intact. It’s possible, and I believe everyone is capable of it with God’s help. For now, pray and ask God to give you the strength to use the gift of sex wisely.

For further reading...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

God's Plan for Sex

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
1 Corinthians 6:18-20

Last week I tried to convince you that sex is a wonderful gift from God, that God is not down on sex, that in fact He commands us to have sex in the first few chapters of Genesis. God places boundaries on how we use this gift of sex not because it is dirty or bad but because it is so powerful. I compared sex to a chainsaw or an airplane. These things are powerful creations that when used correctly are awesome, but the same power that makes them awesome can also bring devastating effects when they are used in ways that they were not intended to be used. Some of you may have thought I had lost my mind comparing sex to a chainsaw, but it is hard to doubt the facts. Sex is awesome when used the way God intended for it to be used, that is within the confines of monogamous marriage between a man and woman.  Sex can be devastating when it is used outside of those confines.

Generally when we think about the negative consequences of sex before marriage we think about getting pregnant, and we are right to do this. Sex does often result in pregnancy, but there are worse things than getting pregnant. Did you know that you have a 4x greater chance of getting a disease than you do of getting pregnant.* Oftentimes we forget about the risk of disease. By the time a girl gets pregnant in the U.S. on average she is carrying 2.3 STDs.* These STDs can really mess you up. Some of them can be cured with some simple antibiotics, but some of them have no cure. Pretty much all of them painfully affect your privates in ways that none of us want. These STDS can make it harder for you to have a normal life in the future. Some of them can cause infertility, meaning they can make it hard for you to have children. Do you know that there was a 500% increase in infertility in U.S. between 1996 and 2006?* And I know that condoms are touted as the cure all, but they are not full proof when it comes to preventing STDs. Anytime you come into contact with someone else's  genitalia in any way you have a chance of contracting an STD.

Movies and TV shows present sex before marriage like it is a recreational activity between consenting adults that doesn't hurt anybody, but here are some fun stats on pregnancy. 80% of teen girls that parent children will live below the poverty line for at least 10 years, which means that their child will live below that poverty line as well.* 90% of teen moms will not graduate from college, which of course makes it very hard for them to have a successful career.* And guys if you get a girl pregnant, you have no say in what happens to that child. In our culture you have no right to say whether that child is aborted or is delivered. If she decides to have the baby then over the next 18 years it will cost you between $60,000 and $80,000 in child support.* And if you don’t pay, the government will garnish your wages.

Believe me I am not trying to get into political issues here. In America you have the freedom to do what you want. I just want you to carefully consider what you want to do. I am completely convinced that God's plan for sex is best. Think for a moment about what the world would be like if everyone followed God’s plan for sex. In other words if there was no premarital sex how would our world be different? There would be no rape, no adultery, no STDs, no Aids, no sexual abuse of children, and no teenage mothers having to raise their children alone. It sounds like heaven, right? God isn’t down on sex but He knows that sex is so awesome and powerful that when it is used in the wrong way it can really, really hurt people. So He gave us rules about when we could have sex and who with so that we wouldn’t hurt ourselves or each other. If you were God, what would you do? Knowing how destructive sex could be wouldn't you try to warn your children to use it carefully?

For further reading...

  • Galatians 6:7-8: The law of sowing and reaping applies to our sexual decisions.
  • Romans 1:18-32: The price for ignoring God's commands is steep.

* Stats taken from Pam Stenzel's Video "Sex Still Has a Price Tag: Public School Edition." I did run across some websites claiming that Stenzel's statistics were inaccurate, but I did not find any evidence that the statistics I used were inaccurate. It is common to malign the source of statistics so finding no concrete evidence that these statistics were wrong I chose to trust Ms. Stenzel. I am happy to consider any corrections from credible sources in the comments, however.