Sex & Culture
(Excerpt from the sermon)
Sermon Series: The Talk
The problem of culture today is that much of what is culturally accepted has made its way into the church. This is because, when it comes to scripture, God's revealed word to us, there are four different approaches that I see by people in the church.
- The first is they see the Bible as a fixed anchor, an immovable, unmovable authority. When the Bible speaks, we sit, we attempt to understand and then obey because of the truth of scriptures based on design and the wisdom of God. Now, that's a rare category.
- The second category sees the Bible as a sea anchor. If you know anything about sea anchors, rather than anchoring the boat to the seabed, the sea anchor increases the drag through the water and thus acts as a type of break, especially helpful during storms. So the people who see the Bible as a sea anchor, believe the Bible is a very good guide to navigate the storms of our lives, but it's a guide, not an authority. Meaning, I choose which scriptures I believe are relevant to my life and which ones are not, which are authoritative, and which scriptures are simply good advice.
- Third, some people see the Bible as a historical landmark, so it's a good place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. The Bible should be respected for its spiritual insight in the past, but they do not feel restrained or governed by the Bible or the scriptures in the present or future.
- And, finally, which represents a majority, I believe it's a total waste of time. The Bible's written by men who use it as a power tool to make the rest of us submit. That might be descriptive of how people look at it outside the church. But even within the church, it's very rare to find a Christ follower.
The Bible would tell us an authentic Christ follower sees the first is the only option. The Bible is a fixed anchor, immovable, unmovable, authority. When it speaks I attempt to understand and then I obey because it's based on the wisdom and the design of God. 2 Timothy 3:16 is a passage we often quote where the apostle Paul tells the young Timothy, the preacher, “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” So we look at this topic, we look at what the Bible says, and we seek to understand and then we obey and conform whether it agrees with culture or not. So far we've looked at sex and identity, sexual immorality, and now we look at sex and culture. Now, this is important because it allows us to have a good understanding of what's going on in the world around us that will impact the way we think about these issues.
As we come to the book of Romans, remember where we are. We are in the theology of the Bible. The gospels are the history. And they tell us the happenings and events of Jesus Christ and the disciples. The book of Romans puts it in the context of everyday life. It is the theology by which we live. It's the book that changed Martin Luther, that changed Augustine, and that has changed many Christ followers ever since. And here's a book that gives us the news that we all want to hear. Part of that news is found for instance in Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed.” This is the good news. This is the fundamental theology of Christianity, that we are not saved by our works, but there is a righteousness that comes to us from God.
Righteousness means that you either keep the law perfectly or you pay the penalty. None of us have kept the law perfectly. No pastor has, no person has. We have all violated the good news. We've violated the righteousness of God. We're all guilty. But the good news, and the reason it's called the gospel, is that God did for us something we could not do for ourselves. He sent His Son to die on the cross and to pay the penalty our sins deserve. Now He credits what Christ did on the cross to our account. That is the good news of the gospel in a nutshell. And it's important to know.
After giving the good news of the gospel, Paul says this is good news because, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (Romans 1:18). When you and I think of wrath, we think of inhumanity, we get angry with somebody, and then we basically have this attitude of I'm going to get you. I'm going to unleash my wrath on you. But God's wrath is not that way. God's wrath is the secure connection between sin and misery. In other words, within the creation scenario, judgment is included. There is a cause and effect. This is what the wrath of God means. It means don't violate design. If you do, this will happen.
If you look at mankind almost from the beginning, we look at money and we say, money's my treasure. It's the thing that will save and deliver me. Power is my significance. It will give me value. Sex is the pinnacle of existence in our day and culture. It gives me meaning. If you choose to go down this road and you ignore the roadblocks, in your futile thinking, if you ignore this, then you come to a point where your foolish hearts are dark. And what does that mean? It means the farther you go down this road, the darker your understanding becomes. So at each juncture in your life there will be locked gates that you have to force your way through. But if you keep breaking down the barriers, you keep denying and not seeking God, you keep relying on your own foolish wisdom rather than the wisdom of God, you will get to a point where you rationalize a lie for so long that you actually begin to believe it's the truth.
Paul says if you do that, if you go so far as to not seek God and to seek your own wisdom to govern your life, you will get to a point where you realize or you believe you are God. But you will have to worship something. You will find an image to worship. In modern culture, if you think about it, we have our own images or idols that we revere, that we pursue above and beyond God. You might say stuff, or just materialism. You might think of food, how we are a culture that is extravagant, that is downright greedy when it comes to what we want and how much we want to eat. Or luxury, how much we serve and work hard so that we might have that vacation or go to this country or have this experience, all of which are good until they are pursued above and beyond God, they become the icon of worship and sacrifice.
“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served created things rather than the creator – who is forever praised” (Romans 1:24-25). Once you don't worship God, you worship things, and then, after you worship things, you worship each other. Then we're told that God gives us over to our sinful desires. Now, what is that? They are desires that we all have. Some are legitimate, some are illegitimate, often produced by culture. When you have a legitimate God-given desire in a legitimate way, it brings prosperity and flourishing. When you fulfill a legitimate desire by illegitimate means, then it creates more illegitimate desires. This is the progression and it leads to disintegration. He gives us an example by saying, one of the things this generation does is they degrade their bodies.
What does that mean? The word is dishonor, atimia. It's a Greek word that means to disgracefully use something designed for nobility in a disgraceful way. We go back to 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 where Paul 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 realize one of the reasons I'm taking this angle is because I want Christ followers to understand what we believe, what the Bible teaches, but I also want people on the outside looking in to know why Christ followers act the way they do and why they believe the things they believe.
The gospel is offensive because you have to admit that you're a sinner. That's offensive. However, offensive words can be spoken in hopes of repentance. God offends you so that you will repent and come to know what is life and flourishing. However, as Christ followers, how we say something is just as important as what we say. Paul said in Colossians 4:6, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” That's why the foundation upon which we've delivered this message, or at least my own countenance, has been for you to understand that I know I have sin in my life. To know that I too have lived apart from God and still do at times. That I too have had futile thinking that leads to no good. That I too, that we all, all of us, have traded in the glory of God for the glory of something here.
And we've given our time and our effort, we've started to worship it because we think it will deliver what we hope it will deliver. As a result, I know that I too have had desires creep in that are immoral, that are illegitimate, that lead to death. I also want you to understand that the Bible is very clear. Not only must you conform to it, but so should I. It is the journey of our lives.
So here is my call. Here is the response by all Christ followers. “And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh” (Romans 13:11-14). What's Paul saying? He's saying: Stand your guard, you better be on the lookout. Watch where culture's going, and don't let it suck you into its mold. Instead, clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ. Don't be possessed with how you may gratify the desires of the flesh. Be possessed with God and the pursuit of God and the knowledge of God.
So my call to you is to wake up. Whatever it is in your life that does not conform with a teaching of scripture that is designed to save you and bring you flourishing and vitality: Repent. Look at the Bible as an immovable authority in your life that loves you as it contains the words of Jesus Himself and the apostle Paul and the other apostles, as they are carried along, divinely led by the spirit of God to give you a truth that is meant to bring life and to stop the disintegration that we all feel in a culture that has denied God.
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