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A Lesson Before Dying and the Power of Sex

I’ve been reading Ernest Gaines’ excellently written A Lesson Before Dying lately. It’s a depressing story–an innocent black man in the late 1940s is the only surviving witness of a liquor store shoot-out. During his trial, his defense lawyer, in an attempt to make the jury find him innocent, tells them that putting him to death would be like putting a hog to death. The remainder of the story is about a teacher’s attempt to make Jefferson go to the chair “like a man.”

The teacher–Grant Wiggins–frequently visits a lover who is separated from her husband. Though readers mostly only see the two drinking together, it’s implied that a large part of their relationship involves sex. At the climax of their story, however, the lover (Vivian) expresses something “she had been holding… in a long time” (209):

“What is me?” she said. “Tell me, what is me?”

“Honey–”

“No, tell me,” she said. “Who am I? Who are you? Who are we? Tell me.”

“All I know is I love you,” I said.

“That’s not enough,” she said. “What is love?”

“Honey–”

“What is it?” she asked. “That bed? That’s love?”

“Honey–please.”

“No. Give me some answers. Give me some answers–today. Today I want answers.”

“Honey, I love you.”

“That’s no answer. I don’t know what you mean by love. That bed?… What is love? Tell me what love is.”

Initially I didn’t like this whole strand of the story, but I believe there’s some deep, biblical truth in this scene. Sex outside of marriage slowly undoes us; it unravels us. Sex is such a powerful thing, such a complete vulnerability; that’s why it’s got to be kept within the security of a marriage between a man and a woman.

Unfortunately, too many depictions of sex outside of marriage are truly fantasy. As a result, there are many Vivians out there–people who “followed their heart” at the cost of their identity.

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Tim Keller Lecture Notes — Series: Sex, Singleness, and Marriage — Lecture #1: Sex–The Biblical Guidelines

Lecture was given on September 1, 1993.

The teaching is based on 1 Corinthians 6:12-20.

Please note that these notes are provided only to encourage, and that any or all parts of the notes may contain errors or omissions, due entirely to the note-taker. Full audio may be found at the Redeemer Sermon Store.

Introduction:

There is no biblical view of dating. They didn’t date. You were three years old and you were walking along with your parents and they saw someone and said, “Oh, there’s a nice family, there’s a good arrangement, let’s have them get married.” My grandmother was betrothed; she was twelve and she was betrothed to my grandfather by her parents. And I used to say, “How was it?” And she’d say, “I had a great marriage, what are you talking about? It was fine!” (More on dating next week, when we talk about singleness.)

The biggest problem tonight is that you’re all in different places, but I’m going to have to aim at a particular type of person. I may not be coming right up the center of your alley, but I hope I can at least knock down a lot of pins in your alley….

Many of you have heard me preach on sex before, though I haven’t done it many times. But you’ve come tonight because you need more details than the overview I’ve given in sermons. So first, I’ll lecture, and second, I’ll let you ask me questions so that you can get the details you need.

Here’s how I’ll start, at the locus classicus on the subject: 1 Corinthians 6:12 to the end….

What is the biblical sex ethic?

  • First I’ll say it negatively: the Bible is clear that sex is for a man and a woman within a marriage. It’s always been like that.
  • Sometimes when I’ve taught on this, people have looked at me and said, “Period? That’s where it ends?” They’ve said you must be one of the conservative pastors.
    • Every branch of Judaism and Christianity has always taught this same thing. It’s very hard to find something that all of the religions have consensus on. Someone who says that this kind of stance on sexuality is part of a backwater cult, they simply don’t understand the history of the world.
    • They say, “Times have changed! This was an idea developed in Europe to keep population down.” I’m glad you’re laughing at that, because that’s really silly. Christianity originally broke on the scene in the middle of the Roman empire! Everybody looked at them and thought they were crazy. But when people came into belief and experienced the power of this ethic, it won. Believing this is something that’s outdated is simply showing a lack of understanding of the transformative power that this idea of a biblical sex ethic had in the sexually permissive society it came on the scene in.
  • The problem with this negatively posed description of sex is that it doesn’t tell you what sex is for, it only tells you what it’s not for.
    • A lot of you were raised in churches where you were taught this, but you weren’t converted, and then later in life you were transformed and came back to the church as genuine believers, and you’re faced again with this teaching which for years you’ve abandoned.
    • So I want to explain what sex is for.
  • But before that, let’s address two views that Paul was dealing with.
    • The Platonic View: First, get out of your head of the way that word is used today. We’re talking about the philosophy of Plato–that the body is bad, matter is bad, the soul is imprisoned in the body, and therefore sexuality is a dirty bad thing.
    • On the other hand, there was the view of the mystery religions: That sex was an appetite that you fulfilled when you felt like it.
    • Paul is careful to distinguish the Christian view from both.
  • We are neither to despise nor deify sex.
    • To despise it is to think of it as a dirty, defiling thing.
    • To deify it is to simply let our instincts do what they want; we can’t treat our instincts as if they’re God.
    • Paul teaches that sex isn’t dirty, but that our sexual instinct is disordered.
    • To deal with the Platonic side, Paul says, “Sex is so critical that both spouses ‘owe’ sex to each other.” It’s commanded–go to it! (“That’s a paraphrase.”)
      • Is it possible that God would command something that was defiling? Heck no. It’s good. He gave it a benediction after creation (Genesis 1-2).
      • The Bible is very embarrassing for Platonic views of sex — the Song of Solomon. The translators constantly wimp out on translating the Hebrew as it really is.
      • Proverbs 5:18 — A man must be ravished with his wife’s breasts.
      • There’s no tittering about sex in the Bible; when it’s wrong, it addresses it, when it’s right, it praises it.
      • Romans 7 — the image is that just as a woman puts herself literally in the arms of her husband and fruit is born into the world, in the same way the Bible says if you put yourself into the arms of Jesus Christ, in the same way fruit will be born into the world through you. It’s an amazingly intimate and daring thing.
      • The Bible teaches us that the ecstasy and joy of sex was created by God to give a foretaste of the amazing intimacy and closure that we will enjoy with God. Sex is a signpost, it’s an analogy. The intimacy that you hunger for in sex can only be given to you by intimacy with God.
      • When we meet with Christ face to face, when we enter into that closure, then we’ll know what sex has all been about; therefore, sex is glorious! How can it possibly be dirty or defiling?
      • The Bible’s view of sex is higher than any other book or philosopher I’ve ever read.
    • To deal with the appetite view of sex, Paul says:
      • v. 13-15, 18 — the body is not for immorality!
      • Sexual oneness with somebody apart from having every other kind of oneness (through marriage) is a monstrosity
      • Now: Why? If sex is so great and glorious, why is Paul talking about how serious it is?
        • Sexual sin can really disorder you in a major way.
        • Sex isn’t any more unforgivable than other sins, but biblically, because sex is a whole lot closer to the center of reality than a mere appetite, therefore sin has hurt sex in the way it hasn’t hurt your physical appetite for food
        • Sin: the bent of the whole person to want to live for your own self and to do things your own way. It’s sin that makes us use people, that makes us always want to put ourselves in the center.
        • Sin can affect our appetite with food, but when you’re dealing with food your dealing with an inanimate object; sex is dealing with another person.
          • If anyone says they deny sin, why do they lock their car? Their front door?
        • Lewis’ radio talk over the BBC on sexuality: Imagine going to a country where young men in college put on the walls of their dorm rooms great big, life-size, full color pictures of hot dogs and hamburgers, and the guys went around to each other’s room saying, “Oh, wow, look at this one!”
          • If you saw this, you’d say, “What’s wrong with these people? They must be starving!” But if you came you’d find out that’s not true; they’ve been eating like crazy. The only conclusion you’d be able to come to would be to say that there’s something deeply disordered and distorted about their appetite for sex.
          • So can you really believe that the appetite for food and the appetite for sex are similar?
          • No — something has gone much more deeply awry with sex than with appetites.
        • You can’t follow your instincts with sex; something has gone wrong with them.
        • If you give sex it’s way, if you hand over the reigns, you won’t get much out of it at all.
        • J. I. Packer — Sex is a signpost to God, now if you camp under a signpost you’re not going to get much of anywhere. If you camp under a sign that says, “New York – 50 Miles,” and say, “We’re here, honey!” you won’t get there. That’s what we’re doing.

What are the three biblical purposes for sex?

  • Procreation
    • One of the reasons the Roman Catholic church doesn’t do birth control is that it believes this is the purpose for sex. They believe that because of St. Augustine, who was a Platonist.
    • However, if there’s more than just this purpose for sex, than some forms of birth control are permissable.
  • Fun
    • Proverbs 5:18 — It brings joy. It’s recreational.
    • But if we stop there, we get into trouble, too. We get stuck with the mystery religions.
  • A Unitive Act
    • It is for fully, permanently, completely committed relationships b/c sex is a way of cementing relationships with complete oneness. It is God’s appointed way for saying to another person, “I belong completely and permanently to you.”

Four ways of saying the same thing

  • What Paul is saying here is that to have sexual, physical union with a prostitute (a woman) without all the other kinds of union is a monstrosity, is frustrating the purpose of sex.
  • What happens physically has got to have as its context the same unification at every level–social, legal, moral, psychological, emotional, spiritual.
  • E.g., when you have sex, you become naked. You make yourself physically vulnerable. When you have sex outside of marriage, you say, “I’m going to make myself physically vulnerable, but I won’t do it in any other way. I don’t want to make myself that vulnerable to you!”
  • You know darn well that when you first had sex with that first person, it seemed like a monstrosity that that person didn’t have any obligation to be with you.

If you see these things, you begin to see that “Thou shalt not have sex outside of marriage” is not just because we like to have rules, we like to keep you from having fun–it’s because sex is BUILT to say I belong completely to you, and if you don’t use it that way, you’ll destroy it.

  • Star Trek, “The Trouble with Tribbles”: There’s some governor of a wimpy asteroid somewhere whose trying to protect his special grain and he calls a star destroyer to come help him, he puts out a Priority One distress call, which always means that a planet’s about to be utterly destroyed.
  • If you use a non-verbal communication signal that has been legislated for one particular purpose for a different purpose, the communication signal gets destroyed!
    • When you have sex with someone who you’re not married to, you ruin your ability to communicate that commitment with sex.
  • Covenant: A binding legal contract done in public. It’s something done with witnesses, so that it’s hard for you to break your word.
    • Sex is supposed to be a regular covenant renewal ceremony
    • If you use sex the way God invented it to be used, every time you use it properly it continually strengthens and renews that covenant.
    • If, on the other hand, you use it outside of marriage, it operates backwards and destroys your ability to be totally committed, and some of you see that in your own life. It doesn’t mean anything anymore, it makes it harder and harder for you to trust.
      • A wife was once incredibly jealous of her husband and could no trust him
        • It came out that she had undermined her ability to trust by being sexually unfaithful to her husband
  • “To know” — this is one of the Hebrew words for sex in the Old Testament

So how do I actually start to practice that?

  • The Bible is always talking about lust. Jimmy Carter was mocked for admitting that he lusted for women in his heart, and that’s because if you’re not a Christian your view of sex is not very nuanced.
  • Lust is for something–for a sexual thrill.
  • So how do you deal with lust?
    • Make a distinction b/w a thought and  fantasy.
      • You can’t stop thoughts from happening. There’s a bit of time to deal with a thought.
      • To admire sexual beauty is not wrong. But to then begin to sit and entertain and begin to think of yourself in relation to that person, at that point you’re getting into a fantasy.
      • You don’t have control over the thought. You can’t stop somebody from knocking at the door, but you can go to the door and say, “I’m not interested.”
      • You can control whether or not you come to the door and say, “Well, come on in and let’s decide what to do with you.”
      • You don’t hear a knock at the door and say, “There I go again!” with dismay.
    • Fast sexually instead of starving
      • This is the difference b/w a diet and being starved. A diet is proactive approach to eating that gets you results that you like.
      • So, when it comes from dieting sexually,
    • Use the Gospel to overcome guilt from the past.
      • A lot of us have problems with our adult life because we used to have trouble with our behavior life.
      • I remember the naked women posters in the rooms on my freshman hallway. That was a long time ago! There are so many useful things to fill my mind with; why is that stuck!
      • The only way to turn those things off is if you don’t feel guilty for them anymore. You need to look at the people in the Bible who were healed and accepted who had a much worse past. Tamar’s incest. Rahab’s prostitution. And Jesus brought them into his family.
  • I’m a Christian, and I’m wondering, “How far can you go, sexually?”
      • Christianity makes you see distinctions, it gives you a much more nuanced view of sexuality, and you begin to see a real different between godly sexual passion and lust.
      • Now that you’re a Christian you’re a connosieur of sex!
    • Don’t forget that if you define sexual intercourse as penetration, it’s something for marriage, but we all know that there are all sorts of things leading up to it.
      • You’ve got to figure out that there is a place where your body will only be satisfied with penetration. I’m not going to tell you where that is. (This seems like a rigorous enough model for self-examination if you’re honest.)
      • You’ve got to think of sex as an escalator, and that everything you do will move you up it. A few steps up, there’s no problem getting off an escalator, but on the other hand, if you’re going up to the top you realize that there is no way you’re getting off.
    • Commitment and contact/intimacy go together.
      • The first time I held my wife (Kathy’s) hand, I got aroused. Women say, “What?” I think it’s because our egos kick in. We think, “Wow, she’s squeezing my hand back.” Just knowing that she’s interested in you can be sexually stimulating and arousing.
      • That doesn’t happen anymore–and that doesn’t mean the honeymoon is over, etc.
        • The reason for that is, the more committed you get the less your sexual stimulation is engaged with your ego and the more it is aroused when the other person is opening themselves up to you.
        • As time goes on, your intimacy moves up; as the commitment grows, the intimacy can grow.
    • Treat the person the way you would want someone to treat your future spouse
      • This rule will keep you safe!
  • These have been some specifics, and if you press me I might give you some more details, but I’m probably going to stick to principles because people are so different.

Some notes from the Q & A:

Someone expressed essentially that the main problem with being a Christian is not that you have to sexually fast, it’s that it narrows down your options so much for who you can marry.

  • Even you go for a long period of time without finding someone that meets the criteria, the alternative is having a string of divorces or being in a marriage where you are seen and not loved.

Marriage doesn’t fulfill you; nothing fulfills you but God. People who are rich have tremendous difficulties; people who are treading water financially have others.

Tim Keller Sermon Notes — Series: The Necessity of Belief — Sermon # 5: The Meaning of the City

This sermon was preached on October 5, 2003.

The teaching is based on Jeremiah 29:4-14

Please note that these sermon notes are provided only to encourage, and that any or all parts of the notes may contain errors or omissions, due entirely to the note-taker. Full audio of the sermon may be found at the Redeemer Sermon Store.

You can also find this particular sermon at Redeemer’s Free Sermon Resource, located here.

Intro:

We’re looking at the book of Jeremiah because Jeremiah’s times were quite a bit like ours. The great Babylonian power had come to Israel, invaded, and taken Israel as exiles of Bablyon. In Babylon, they found a huge, hostile, brutal city filled with all of these different people groups with radically different visions of nature, morality, and the nature of the world. How do you respond to a fragmented society?

We live in a society so that it’s getting so that most people in our society feel like exiles. For example, liberals feel like this country is becoming so conservative that they’re pulling their hair out. Yet, at the same time, conservatives are pulling their hair out because they feel that this country is becoming so liberal. That’s a fact. But how can that be? How can both liberals and conservatives feel like exiles? The answer is that we live in a fragmented society where there is no consensus about what is right and what is wrong — this is very much like the city the Jewish exiles entered into. So here’s the question: how do you respond to that kind of society? The answer of God to the exiles is astounding.

If you think you’ve heard me preach on Jeremiah 29, you’re wrong! I’ve never preached on it, but I’m always referring to it. Jeremiah 29 is one of the most important texts to Redeemer’s history.

Outline: How do you respond to a fragmented society? How do you relate to the city?

I. The wrong way

II. God’s way

III. How to get the power to do it

I. The Wrong Ways

  • The Babylonian Agenda:
    • The Babylonians were experts at dealing with uncooperative nations:
      • Expel them / drive them out: The Babylonians found that if you did this, they came back madder than before
      • Subjugation: You don’t drive them out, you push them down; you enslave them. The problem with this is that they keep having these uprisings madder than ever.
      • Assimilation: Here the Babylonians found what they were looking for. They said, “You can live with us, you can have the best jobs, as long as you live like us.
        • Ex: Daniel
        • Within a couple generations, a people group is gone, their distinctiveness is worn away.
        • v. 6 “Increase there, do not decrease.” Assimilation sought to have them decrease.
    • Tribalism: v. 8 “God says, ‘Don’t listen to the other prophets — they’re telling you things I didn’t tell them to tell you!'”
      • Assimilation means that I go into the city and engage it for my own power and wealth.
      • Tribalism means that I smile at the city on the outside, but inside I disdain it. I exploit it.

II. God’s Way

  • v. 5-7 — Build homes! Move in! Build gardens! Increase! And seek the peace and prosperity of Babylon. This was a city whose hands were dripping with the blood of Israel’s people!
  • This must have been utterly astounding for God’s children to hear. He wanted them not just to engage the city as a tribe, but he wanted them to seek the shalom of the city! The peace and prosperity of it! He wanted them to pray for it!
  • St. Augusten, The City of God: He says that the whole Bible is basically a tale of two cities — the city of man and the city of God.
    • People go into the human city to make a name for themselves, to get a self, to get power and achievement, “then I’ll know I’m somebody.”
      • This makes it a place of exhaustion: they go into the city needing to get — love, power, recognition, a resume
      • This makes it a place of oppression: we’re working so hard to get up the ladder that we’re willing to step on people
    • In contrast, the city of God works not on the basis of pride, but of peace; not on the basis of human effort, but on God’s grace
      • This makes it not a place of exhaustion, because the people enter it looking to give, not looking to get, because they already know who they are. It’s a place of joy.
      • This makes it not a place of oppression, but a place of justice.
    • City of Man: Your life to benefit me; City of God: My life to benefit you
    • Very often these cities are referred to as Jerusalem and Babylon
  • So, we live in the city of man, right? Someday God will come and destroy the city of man.
  • Up until Jeremiah, everyone thought that was how it was. Then, all of a sudden, God says, “Move into Babylon and seek its peace.” But that makes no sense! I thought God was going to destroy the city!?”
    • Matt 5: Jesus says to his disciples, “You are a city on a hill! Let your light shine before men.” The good deeds Jesus is talking about are living and service.
  • Every city is two cities. The city of God is a mini-city in every city, they are an alternate city in every city, in which they take sex, money, and power, and instead of using them for exploitation and pride, they use them in life giving ways.
  • The way you bear witness in the earthly city to God’s city, is that you don’t go in there to work for your sake (assimilation), don’t work their for your tribe’s sake (disdain), work in the city for the city’s sake.
  • St. Augustine says that the minute you’re born again you get dual citizenship in these two cities.
  • Citizens of the city of God are the very best citizens of their earthly cities. They don’t move in to make themselves or their group stronger, they move their for the city’s sake.
  • When Jeremiah talks about shalom, it’s worth thinking. “Peace” isn’t strong enough. Shalom means total flourishing in every dimension: socially, economically, spiritually, physically. God is saying that if you are a child of God this has got to be your attitude toward the earthly city in which you reside.
    • You’re working for the social peace of your city, helping the different racial groups get along.
    • You’re working for the economic shalom of the city, not having a career just to advance yourself or your cause, but to bring everyone in the city up, to seek the prosperity of everyone in it. If you don’t feel that way about New York City, you’re not thinking out the implications of this passage.
  • God is saying don’t lose your difference in the city, but at the same time don’t guard jealously your difference in the city. He’s saying, “Use your difference to serve the city!” Your difference is that you belong to the one true God — use that to serve them.
  • Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity, describes early centuries of Christianity and the plagues that occurred in many cities…
    • If you live in a city for yourself or your tribe, you get out when bad things happen — you don’t want to die!
    • But that’s not what the Christians did in early Christianity. They lost their lives happily for the sake of their neighbors.
    • Stark is trying to figure out how this one little religious group of Christians eventually shaped an entire empire.
      • When the dying pagans recovered from the plagues, they were faced with the question, “Wait, what are you here for?”
      • The Christians said, “We’re not here for money, we’re not here to make a name for ourselves, we don’t need money, we don’t need acceptance, we don’t even need to live!”
      • As a result, the Christian gospel captured the imaginations of the people. Christianity did not capture their imaginations by trying to take over or trying to get their people into office! They got power by not trying to get power.

III. The Power — How can it be that Christians did this?

  • Centuries after Jeremiah, Jesus entered Jerusalem, the city of God — and he gets executed and thrown out. You never executed anybody inside the holy city, because it was necessary to send them out to die, because it was symbolic of the consequence of sin; you lose the community, you lose the blessing, because you’re thrown out.
  • It wasn’t a symbol of Jesus; it was a reality. Hebrews 13:12-14.
  • On the cross, Jesus was cosmically thrown out so that you and I could be brought in. Sin deserves to be thrown out of the city, but Jesus Christ took it for us, so that when you believe in Jesus, you become automatically enrolled in the city of God–and that makes us salt and light in the city that is.
  • Why? Because if you know who you are, you move back into the earthly city not needing anymore and being ready to give.
  • Frank Sinatra was wrong; he said that if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. But Jesus gives you something better. There is a mansion in the truly greatest city in the universe, there is applause, acclaim, a ticker-tape parade waiting for you. If you know that, you can move out into the city with poise!
  • Michael Foucalt, the post-modern theorist, says that we create and bolster a self through the exclusion of the Other. E.g., If I feel good about myself because I’m a hard worker, I have to despise people who are lazy.
  • But what if you’re identity is in Christ? What if it’s not in being a good Christian who goes to church and reads the Bible, but in Christ? Because Jesus Christ, when I was doing all the wrong things he died for me! If that’s the basis for my whole life, then how do I look out at the city filled with people who are doing the wrong things? I love them! Because Jesus dying on the cross was dying for them, and for me.
  • Here in NYC, there is a saying that you need to get rid of your idea that there’s one truth. If you believe that, I’ll accept you; if not, I won’t. You’ve got to assimilate to be accepted. But Jesus gives you a resource for that, because he died for people who didn’t believe in him. Christianity gives you the power to love people who don’t believe like you do, who are not like you.
  • Do you see this? Do you understand it?
  • Jesus lost the city that was, so that you and I can be citizens of the city that is to come.

Practical Applications:

  1. Live in the city: when Paul wanted to capture a region, he went to the city, because he knew that if you captured the city you captured the region. The way to capture the imagination of the United States is to capture the imagination of its cities. The Bible says history began in a garden, but it will end in a city. What does Revelation say: I see the suburb of God coming down? No, it’s a city coming down! A diverse, artistic, energetic city. If you hate the city, I don’t know what you’re going to do with the New Jerusalem. When we all get to the New Jerusalem, you’re going to have to show people how to use the subways.
  2. Don’t live in the city selfishly: If you are so driven by your ego or your family expectations, if you’re working so hard in your career that you’re not thinking of the poor, then you have to wonder if you’re really living for the city, or are you just using it. If you’re just using it, you having come to grips with your identity in Christ. God won you over not by taking power, but by losing it. He won you not with a sword in his hand, but with nails in them. That’s why the hymn goes like this:

Not with swords loud clashing nor roll of stirring drums,

but with deeds of loving mercy the heavenly kingdom comes.

Book Review: Teens and Sex

Paul David Tripp
P & R Publishing, June 2000, 28 pp., $2.99, http://www.prpbooks.com

In this short, easy-to-hand-out-to-parents booklet, Tripp follows Jesus’ lead in the Sermon on the Mount. “Sex,” Tripp writes, “is never just a physical act; it is always a matter of the heart.”

Debunking the myth that abstinence is the highest goal we can set before teens, Tripp surveys the Scriptures to give adults a realistic look at how we should teach and counsel teens about sex. Though short, the booklet’s bulk adeptly lays out a biblical view of teens and sexuality, the contradictory voices teens hear, and how the church’s ambivalence toward sex sends teens looking elsewhere for answers. Once this foundation is laid, Tripp uses the final pages to deliver the bullet points of a threefold plan for helping teens with prevention, restoration, and strategizing for God-glorifying relationships.

Premarital sex of any kind

How the Gospel Addresses Premarital Sex of Any Kind

The worst thing about premarital sex — and I’m talking about any kind of premarital sexual intimacy whatsoever, all you line-drawers — is not what it does to us, but what it does to God.

1. Some self-centered reasons not to do it: exposure to STDs, possibility of pregnancy, develops awkwardness, splits our hearts, confuses our decisions, makes us want more, adds credentials to our tickets to hell (not that we need any), uses people, etc.

2. The impotence of these reasons: My thoughts on sex have been taken captive, as so many of my fellows, in part by American sex education and in part by misunderstandings from church. My top three reasons for not having premarital sex were: afraid of dying (STDs), afraid of ruining my life (unplanned pregnancy), afraid of going to hell (“some sins are worse than others”). These are the self-centered reasons (flawed, indeed) I had for not engaging in premarital sex. They were not powerful enough to overcome my desires. Ultimately, I became a slave to sexual desires, and repeatedly fulfilled them in mind or deed, for over ten years.

3. The real reason not to do it: Having sexual intimacy and experiences outside of marriage dishonor and displease the God that made us and loves us. They go against the commitment of romance and the romance of commitment that He designed. They make relationships me-centered rather than God-centered first and other-centered second.

4. The gospel as the solution: God offers absolute forgiveness and an intimate relationship with Him. This relationship alone will quench unholy desires for premarital sex. Being religious (as I was) won’t cut it. We cannot fake a relationship with Christ, fitting Him in like a poodle, and expect His voice. This relationship is accessible to us, with all our flaws, only because of Jesus’ perfect life being sacrificed in place of our starkly imperfect lives.

Mark Driscoll: Sermon on Birth Control

These are notes from a sermon in the Religion Saves and Nine Other Misconceptions series that Mars Hill Church in Seattle did to start 2008. It’s of relevance to Crystal and I as we pray about kids and our future after getting married. Please pray for us!

Birth Control (Mark Driscoll sermon)

  • There’s enough room in Texas for everyone in the world to have 1700 sq. ft. There’s enough food in the world; distribution is the problem: wars, poverty, evil dictators.
  • The Bible doesn’t use terms of birth control and family planning, but it does establish a worldview in which we can come to particular decision on biomedical ethical issues on birth control.
  • 16 truth statements on this issue:
    1. God is the creator and author of human life.
    2. God made humanity in his image and likeness with makes human life unique and sacred.
    3. God intends for human beings to fill the earth (Genesis 1:28)
    4. God authored that human life begins at conception and declares that an unborn baby is a sacred life (Exodus 21:22-23, etc.)
    5. God knows us from our mother’s womb (Jeremiah chosen from his mother’s womb; Job; Psalm 139).
    6. God declares that when human life has been taken without just cause, the sin of murder has been committed.
    7. God made humanity to exercise dominion by ruling over creation (Genesis 1:26).
    8. God made humanity to steward creation by exercising discernment based upon (a relationship with Him?) 
    9. God made humanity male and female, equal but different.
    10. God created marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman (Proverbs 2, Malachi 2, Matthew 19).
    11. God created sex as a gift only for married couples (if you are single, you don’t need birth control, you need self-control).
      1. But I can’t stop! You’re not doing it now, just keep that going.
    12. God is sovereign over the womb and can open and close it as He wills (Sarah, Elizabeth, Mary).
    13. Children are a blessing from God (Psalm 127 says children are a blessing). Deadbeat dads aren’t Christian (Timothy). Christians are pro-adoption (we’ve been adopted; Joseph adopted Jesus).
    14. God desires that Christians raise up godly offspring.
    15. God demands that His people lovingly care for widows and orphans. Foster care kids and single moms and widows we should be concerned about.
    16. God expects single people who are not parents to also help raising children along with parents and grandparents. Jesus was single but he helped raise children. If you are single, consider children’s ministry.
  • The preceding list is a culmination of a biblical worldview on children, sex, marriage.
  • 5 levels of birth control.
    1. No birth control.
      • This is an acceptable Christian position. You’re not doing anything to prevent birth at all. If anything shows up, great, we’ll name it and raise it.
      • One couple Driscoll knows has this position and has 13 children. It’s expensive, but you know what? They’re wonderful. They are an amazing couple because physically she’s been able to birth 13 children. Emotionally, they’ve not had a breakdown, they still love each other (obviously, they keep making babies). They’re a beautiful family. We thoroughly love having them around. I sat them down and asked them one time, “So, you’ve probably never been asked this before, but what’re your convictions about birth control?
        • We don’t believe birth control is a sin, we don’t judge those who use it, we’re not legalistic about it. But our personal conscience conviction that we both agreed to after fasting and prayer is not to use birth control and allow God to do what He wills. Non-self-righteous, operating out of conscience.
          • This is absolutely acceptable: non-legalistic, non-judgmental, non-self-righteous.
        • Legalism is where you bind everyone with your conscience, as opposed to allowing them to operate according to their own conscience.
          • What’s wrong is when this position is the only position that’s not allegedly aligned with Satan.
          • “I am not a feminist and I don’t work for Satan, in fact Jesus signs my paycheck.”
          • Anything that says you either use no birth control or you’re working for Satan is wrong.
          • Homeschooling can get messed up when it becomes legalism and judgmentalism and “We’re right and everyone else is wrong.” Again, when you force your conscience on others, that’s religion at its worst.
          • “Family planning is the mother of abortion.” This is religion. Yes, some people are really selfish, and some people are greedy and that’s why they don’t want to have children, but to say that everyone who uses birth control is selfish is wrong.
            • Using contraception can be necessary for some. It’s a sick thing to make a rule and force it on everyone without knowing their story. What these people need is a little love and not a lot of legalism. People can be cruel and harsh and stupid, making commands that other people try to follow to honor God but can’t.
          • Not everything used for evil is bad. High speed internet and cheap video is being sped up by porn, but we use it to promulgate the gospel of Jesus Christ.
          • Genesis 1:28 isn’t a command, it’s a blessing. Legalists tend to take delights and make them rules. If 1:28 was a command, it would mean that everyone who doesn’t have kids is sinful. That would make miscarriages, singles, and Jesus sinful. God’s people should aspire to be parents and are blessed to be them, but they are not in sin without it.
          • Just because something is a blessing doesn’t mean you’re in sin if you don’t have it!
            • And just because something is a blessing doesn’t mean you should have as many as possible.
            • 1. Have children, 2. Subdue the earth.
              • Everyone needs to decide how big is their earth, and how big is their family. How big is our proverbial quiver?
          • Argument: “God is sovereign, so when we use birth control we subvert God’s sovereignty.”
            • What?!?! God’s not in heaven saying, “Oh no, I was going to have a child in her, but there’s latex, I can’t do it!
          • The sin of Onan is treating Tamar like a booty call and not a bride.
            • You guys having sex with your girlfriends are committing the sin of Onan.
          • The early church fathers said sex was for procreation only, pleasure was a sin.
            • We’d disagree, but they’d point out that we’re downloading porn and having booty calls and friends with benefits.
            • Chief proponent of home schooling says sex isn’t about climax. She says if you’re married and infertile or not in the season of the month of fertility, you’re not allowed to have sex.
              • That’s an evil thing to say (1 Corinthians 7:5). God’s people are to have free and frequent sexual pleasure together. All kinds of trouble happens when Christian couples aren’t having sex.
              • Why would God make a woman multi-orgasmic and put parts on a woman that have no purpose but pleasure?
              • Citing an incident in the Bible, joking: “She strips for him… not even making this up, it’s my favorite chapter in the whole Bible!”
              • Andrea Yates, Christian home-school Mom, murdered every one of her children.
                • My point is, though I am exceedingly pro-life and I make no apology for that, because God is, I also want to hammer idiotic, moralistic, imbecilic husbands. There are certain guys who need to be taken behind the woodshed by an elder. They’re neatniks, nitpicks, don’t belong to a church because they have such a legalistic view of what the theology should be. They tell their wives to shut up you’re supposed to submit. Honey, what can I do to help? they don’t ask. They don’t say, Honey, how can we provide for these kids better financially?
                • If you’re married to one of these men, give us a call. We specialize in male idiots. There are levels of authority above your husband, like church elders and God.
                • She doesn’t exist just to make babies, she exists to be loved as Christ loves the church. To love her, listen to her, agree with her, consider her, even if you have verses, because those verses are out of context.
                • If there’s any guy here that says, “Are you talking about me?” The answer is, “Yes, you’re the idiot of which I speak.” Stop it. Repent. Love her, consider her, and listen to her. Don’t destroy her, in the name of blessing, because you are a curse.
    2. Natural birth control: Avoid intercourse on fertile days. Catholics practiced this, it was called People Roullette.
      • Benefits: Safe, reversible, no other people involved
      • Downsides: Need a lot of discipline, and planning, and a few days a month you’re on the bench.
      • This is acceptable from a Christian worldview.
    3. Non-abortive birth control: Barrier methods, temporary and permanent.
      • Problems with temporary: Philosophically reduces intimacy, reduces pleasure, not as spontaneous.
      • Problems with permanent: Look at your motives. But if you have searched your heart and you do love children and your motives are pure, it’s not a sin. But don’t rush into it, because a lot of people do and regret it, and some leave it emotionally hurt. But it’s legalistic to say no one ever has a good reason.
        • True Example: Godly guy and his godly wife had 18 miscarriages. Physically and emotionally, they decided they couldn’t do it anymore. Should we judge him and say, “You’re godless and sinful!” No, he doesn’t need legalism, he needs love. They’ve decided on adoption. Should we judge them? No, we should help them pay for the adoptions.
    4. Potentially abortive birth control: Chemical birth control AKA “The Pill”
      • Complicated with “potentially.” When an egg is fertilized with the sperm, it’s conception, that’s life.
      • 50-60 million women are taking the pill.
        • Inhibiting ovulation = okay, it’s contraception.
        • Thins and shrivels the lining of the uterus. This is not guaranteed abortive, but potentially abortive.
        • James Dobson researched this and said it’s inconclusive.
          • Doctors who love Jesus and are pro-life are split on the issue.
      • It’s an issue of prayer, research, fasting, and mutual agreement in love for Jesus. We would not say it’s a sin, but it’s risky.
    5. Abortion: Clearly a sin in the majority sense. Morning-after pill included.
      • 1 in 6 abortions is performed by an evangelical Christian woman. Which means this year 250,000 Christian women will abort their child. 50% who have an abortion say it is their only form of birth control.
      • If you don’t agree, you don’t need to find a church that agrees with you. No, you don’t, you need to change your heart, because you’re in sin.
      • This is a theological issue with a political implications, not primarily a political issue.
      • We want to introduce people to Jesus, not argue with them, because you know what He’ll do, He’ll change your mind on everything.
      • There’s no sin Jesus can’t forgive, even murder–He did it on the cross.
        • Rather than arguing with me, you should go to Jesus, and you should spend time in your heart, and prayer, and scripture.