A couple weeks ago I began preaching through a 9-week sermon series entitled, The Kingdom Effect: How Christ & the Kingdom Changes Everything.
The series is building off the idea of the butterfly effect, and the mustard seed as Jesus taught about in Matthew 13:31-32. The point being that something small and seemingly insignificant can make a huge impact and have lasting effects. The intent of the series is to survey the sweeping impact Christ and the Kingdom makes on us and the world.
Here is an outline of the series:
The Kingdom Effect…
- On the Individual
- On Human Sexuality
- On Marriage (One Flesh Unions)
- On Family
- On the Church, pt1
- On the Church, pt2
- On Society & Culture
- On Worldly Powers
- On the Future (of Heaven & Earth)
The first sermon addressed the new identity that believers receive upon repentance. The flesh or “sinful nature” is a lie that has been hurled upon us as a result of the Fall. I discussed this in my last post, Farewell to the Flesh.
As Paul wrote, the “pattern of the world” seeks to conform us to an identity of flesh and a distorted way of living in the world. But Christ has the power to transform us by changing the way we see and think about ourselves as “new creation” living in the present evil age. The Kingdom Effect begins with you!
Last Sunday I extended the first message to include human sexuality.
In the following post, I will touch on a few points from the sermon “On Human Sexuality” and elaborate on others.
Sexual Confusion Meets New Identity
Contrary to some of the cultural messages we receive today, we are not neutered souls residing in bodies that are inconsequential to personhood. We are a union of spirit/soul and body (Gen 2:7), and God made us male and female (Gen 1:27). The “real you” can only be discovered by first recognizing this union in God’s created order, even in our brokenness.
We seriously need to recognize this today. While we have been made in God’s image, we are broken and not as we should be. Christ and the Kingdom’s effect is to dispel the lies and deceptive voices that would have us root our identity in anything other than the person of Christ—the perfect image of God.
In coming to know Christ we discover that he is Lord of spirit, soul, and body. We are not our own, we were bought at a price. Our bodies belong to him for they are “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 6:18-20).
It’s clear in the Old and New Testaments that sex is good within a monogamous marriage between male and female. While biblical characters often deviated from this pattern, the design is there, and it’s affirmed by Jesus.
In Matthew 19:4-6, Jesus says a man is to “cleave” or to be united with his wife as one flesh, referring back to Genesis 2:18-24. Paul also references this passage in Ephesians 5:25-31. This is the divine design: Sex is good and to be enjoyed between a husband and wife for life.
Neuroscience has been confirming this for several years now. Chemicals in the brain (neurotransmitters & hormones) are produced in us to “bond” us to one sexual partner, even producing a sense of fidelity. When a person defiles the body through pornography (detached from bodily union) and promiscuous sex (bonding & de-bonding), or other sexually deviant behavior, the brain and body are utterly shocked by the experience. I explain further in my sermon.
So this isn’t antiquated Hebrew religion talking. No, the idea of sex being between a man and woman in marriage is built into God’s design for human sexuality. Therefore, everything else is in time destructive to individuals and society at large for it goes against the natural order of things (Rom 1:18-32).
[Watch this TED talk on the terrible consequences of viewing pornography.]
This dysfunction ultimately leads to addictions, mental and emotional instability, and even more unhealthy thinking and behavior. And the physical side of this sexual confusion and chaos is putting oneself at risk for STDs.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.” Paul, 1 Corinthians 6:12-14 NIV
Paul says the body isn’t meant for sexual immorality (Gk: “porneia”). Paul uses porneia in his letters as an umbrella term to speak of all sexually deviant behavior outside of the one flesh union of husband and wife (1 Cor 7:1-16,39). The culture may think “casual sex” or having “the right” to do whatever sexually is liberating, but the Scripture teaches that it’s quite the opposite.
We may not claim as a “right” what God has not given to us.
I submit to you that I think a good bit of the culture’s sex-drive is only symptomatic of a deep longing and desire for real intimacy. Seen from this perspective, the church’s response should be different than years past.
God’s design isn’t meant to harm us or to keep us from human wholeness. But this has become difficult for folks, even in the church, to hear and to heed. Sexual fulfillment has become an idol in the culture and the church.
“The idol of sexual fulfillment has two faces: One face says that each person has the right to be sexually satisfied and that having sex is a necessary part of happy, mature adulthood (or even adolescence). The second face is a Christian one that says the reward for premarital sexual virtue is great marital sex.” Jenell William Paris, The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex is Too Important to Define Who We Are
As strange as it may sound in our hyper-sexualized culture, sexual experience isn’t necessary for human wholeness, but being in covenant relationship with others in the church is vital to our health as image-bearers who have embraced a new identity in Christ. We don’t need marriage or sex to be happy.
Will we idolize sexual fulfillment, finding our identity in our sexual impulses and attractions, or will we let Christ and the Kingdom have their effect on us?
Marriage, Sex & Singleness
Jesus radically “redefined” marriage by placing it within the mission and purpose of the church and the Kingdom, but not by undermining Genesis 2:18-24. Instead, where the OT command was to marry and make babies, the NT command is to pledge to the Kingdom and make disciples (spiritual babies).
For those called to this biblical marriage, you and your family are to now serve the Kingdom, not your own interests. And for those persons who, for whatever reason, don’t enter marriage, Jesus has exalted singleness.
Jesus said that some should choose to “live like eunuchs for the kingdom” and be single (Matt 19:11-12). He’s not only making an argument for the legitimacy of his own celibate life, he is encouraging others in the same way.
The Kingdom inaugurated by Jesus has brought about a new relational and familial dynamic to the world through the Body of Christ. It declares that no one is destined to live a life of “singleness” apart from fulfilling relationships.
“The church is composed of the single and the married. Both are called to a life of faithfulness. All are called to be friends, defying the loneliness that threatens anyone not married.” Stanley Hauerwas
Singleness isn’t a disease that needs a cure. Some, like Jesus, may choose to live as eunuchs for the Kingdom, for one reason or another. The church needs to quit idolizing sex and marriage, along with the biblically confused in the church who press for political changes. It’s not the Kingdom way.
Sex is good within the context of a marriage that Christ affirms, but it will not bring fulfillment when there is desire for intimacy that runs deeper than sexual release. Sex only works as relational glue in a Christ-centered marriage.
Church, let us rise up and create communities where our deepest desire for intimacy with the divine and others (male and female) is being met within the family of God. It’s all a part of the Kingdom effect.
Both the married life and the single life are hard. Remember this: neither married life or sexual licentiousness guarantees intimacy. We are broken and only Christ offers living water that quenches the thirst (Jn 4:13-14).
Let this Water be found in our local churches, overflowing our lives in grace, among the married and those who are eunuchs for the Kingdom. This is our counter-cultural response to a sex-crazed and intimacy-deficient world.
D.D. Flowers, 2014.