Turning People into bodies title graphic

Turning People Into Bodies

In this series of posts we are looking at Jesus’ shocking statement concerning lust in Matthew 5:27-30 and gleaning from it 4 ways that pornography short circuits intimacy. In the previous post, I discussed the first way. Pornography short circuits intimacy because to justify it we ask the wrong question. If we ask the wrong question we live the wrong answer. In this post I want to share the second-way pornography short circuits intimacy: pornography objectifies people and turns them into bodies.

With Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:27-30, he moves the conversation off of the finish line of adultery and moves it onto the starting line of lust. Adultery is the sin of ending up in someone’s bed. Lust is the sin of letting it get started in your heart.

What is lust?

Lust is not noticing that someone is attractive. Lust is imagining what it would be like to have them. Lust is not seeing someone, it is dwelling on them. Lust is misplaced desire.

An interesting thing about the word translated “lust” in Matthew 5 is it is the same word translated as “earnest desire” in Luke 22. The scene in Luke 22 is Jesus preparing to take Passover with his apostles.

And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”

Luke 22:15

The same word used to describe a deeply meaningful act of devotion in Luke 22 is used in Matthew 5 to describe a dirty thought that could potentially turn into someone more.

The problem is not desire, but direction. We all have desires. The question is not whether or not you will have them. The question is what will you do with them?

The Prayer You Don’t Want to Pray

A typical early response to a message like this is for someone struggling with lust is for them to want to pray, “Lord, please take away these sexual desires.” Do you really want God to answer that prayer? I don’t think so! That prayer would be like someone struggling with gluttony to pray, “Lord, please take away my hunger.” The problem is not in the desire. The problem is in the decision.

Sex Drive?

They call it sex drive, but is sex drive really just our desire for sex? It isn’t. Our sexual desires are more complex than just the physical act of sex. If we just wanted sex for the sake of sex, then people hooked on pornography, or people who sleep around, or people in prostitution would be the happiest people on the planet. But they’re not. Why not?

Because in our sex drive there is also the desire to be loved, to be known, to belong, to connect, to be affirmed, to be satisfied, and to be secure. Our sexual desire is one of the most complicated, but deeply meaningful parts of being human.

The problem with lust and pornography is that a desire becomes a demand. A person just wants sex without the messy work of love, communication, building intimacy, trust, connection, forgiveness, and grace.

Maybe your marriage is not so good right now. Maybe the two of you are not getting along. But you still have desires, right? The right way to fulfill that desire would be to reconnect with your spouse. The right way is to work on communication, talk through the issues.

But that takes time and work. So a decision is made. I still have the desire, but the right way is not an easy way. So, that desire becomes a demand. You bypass your spouse. You pull up an image or a video. You lust after a body.

When you bypass the messy work of connecting with your spouse and fulfill your desire through the demand of pornography, you effectively do what they did with the rubber hand illusion (see my previous post). You take one of the most complex desires God has given you and you transfer all of those connections onto something that isn’t real.

That person on the screen has a name. That is someone’s son or daughter. That person has needs and desires of their own, but with pornography you don’t need affirmation, you just need a body. With pornography you don’t give security, you just take an image. With pornography you don’t develop trust, you just click a button.

The person on the screen has no identity, it’s just a body.

You have taken your God-given desires and turned them into demands. The more you do this, the more you like this, and the more you believe you need this. The more you bypass the messy work of fulfilling God-given desires and settle for just making demands; this becomes dangerous! You have short-circuited intimacy and turned a person into a body.

For a great resource on this topic, check out Michael John Cusick‘s book, Surfing for God.

Next Post: Pornography short circuits intimacy because it is a form of idolatry.

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Poke your eye out title graphic

How We Short Circuit Intimacy Through Pornography

There is a television show called Brain Games that conducts all sorts of fascinating experiments designed to reveal the interesting ways that our brains process reality. One of the experiments is called the rubber hand illusion. In the rubber hand illusion, a person’s brain is tricked into transferring feeling and response into a rubber hand. Check it out.

The rubber hand illusion shows the powerful ability of the brain to take something it sees or imagines, and make it a part of you. If your brain can be tricked into thinking that a rubber hand has feeling, imagine what pornography does to our psyche. Sin is psychological long before it is physical.

Given the rubber hand illusion, it should be no surprise as to the radical solution Jesus offers in dealing with lust.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right-hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Matthew 5:27-30

There is a sense in which Jesus’ statement is much like the rubber hand illusion. Jesus is using hyperbole. No one is going to lose a hand, but this verse still hurts. It hurts because we realize that lust is a common problem in our sexually charged culture, image-driven, culture. We live in a society in which pornography is normalized, and then Jesus says this! But his statement is important because:

  1. We are all affected by pornography. Male and female. Young and old.
  2. If your brain can connect with a rubber hand, think of how pornography connects you to a fantasy – to something that is not emotionally or sexually real. There is plenty of data that points to how pornography rewires the brain. Sex is designed by God for a deep connection between husband and wife. Pornography takes all that God has designed and connects it to a screen. Because of pornography we are losing the ability the connect intimately with our spouse.
  3. Pornography is not only short-circuiting our intimacy with others, but it is short-circuiting the church’s connection with God. Couples are lacking intimacy. The church is lacking holiness.

As shocking and radical as Jesus’ statement seems, if we can take it to heart we may see a lot of marriages saved as intimacy is restored. If you take Jesus’ statement seriously, you may learn to enjoy your spouse like never before.

So how does pornography short-circuit intimacy? In the next couple of posts, I want to glean from Jesus’ statement on lust in Matthew 5:27-30 and share four ways pornography short-circuits intimacy.

#1 – If we ask the wrong question, we live the wrong answer.

When it comes to sex, our culture conditions us to ask the question, “How far is too far?” That’s the wrong question.

The context of Jesus’ shocking statement about lust is the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is inviting people to follow Him. In doing so they will move past religious legalism into real life change. He can take broken people (Matthew 5:2-11) and transform them into salt and light (5:12-15) who become His witnesses in the world.

His way is not a new way. His way is about returning people to God’s intention. In Matthew 5:17-20 Jesus teaches the He is not doing away with God’s commands. His followers are to fulfill them.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Matthew 5:17

Jesus then gives 6 examples of how his followers will fulfill God’s commands (5:21-48). Each example is introduced with the formula, “You have heard it said . . . but I say to you.” Jesus’ statement on lust is the second of the 6 examples.

The problem with God’s commands is not in what was said. The problem is in what humans do. We like loopholes. We like to explore the technicalities, ask questions, create exemptions and exceptions. The adultery command is a marquee example of how people take God’s plain command and create loopholes.

Where’s the man?

There is a story in John 8 in which religious leaders throw a woman down at Jesus’ feet and then bring an accusation against her. “This woman has been taken in the act of adultery.” We are familiar with Jesus’ response. He begins scribbling in the sand and then he says, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone at her.”

But have you ever read that story and wondered, if she was taken “in the very act of adultery” where was the man?

The reason there is no adulterous man brought to Jesus in John 8 is because the religious leaders had created so many loopholes in the command that adultery was a problem for women, not men.

A man could be married, but have mistresses. Adultery was regulated to sleeping with another man’s wife. As long as a woman was not married, she could be your mistress and that was not considered by some to be adultery.

There is even an example in some Rabbinical writing that a man’s daughter was blamed for the adulterous actions of a man because she was so beautiful. It’s no mistake that they brought to Jesus an adulterous woman but not an adulterous man. Adultery was her problem, not his.

How Jesus closes the loophole.

In Matthew 5:27-30 Jesus closes the loophole by internalizing adultery. As long as someone can self-righteously point a finger at others, adultery is her problem, his problem, but not my problem. But if the fulfillment of the command is in not committing adultery with her “in his heart,” adultery is not about what others do, but about what is going on within yourself.

You and I look for ways to avoid a command. Jesus desires for us to fulfill it. These are two very different approaches.

When it comes to sex, the question of “How far is too far?” is the wrong question. How far can I go and not commit adultery . . . that’s a terrible approach to God’s command.

Aren’t you glad that when you’re flying in a plane that the pilot doesn’t ask the tower, “How low is too low?”

Aren’t you thankful that your doctor doesn’t ask you, “How sick is too sick?” Are you more interested in a doctor who wants to help you be well or in one who wants you to be less sick? Take your pick!

In making adultery a female problem the men of Jesus’ day were a LONG way from when Moses first gave the adultery command in Exodus 20. How does that happen? It happens with the approach of avoidance rather than the approach of fulfillment.

“How far is too far?” is an avoidance question. With avoidance questions the line is always moving. Culture pushes the line. Comparisons move the line. Personal choices blur the line.

“You have heard it said.” So what have you heard said when it comes to sex? Who or what draws the line for you?

  • Is it your seemingly uncontrollable sex drive? Your line is justified with relief.
  • Perhaps you blame your activity with pornography on a spouse that doesn’t satisfy.
  • Is it that the two of you are not getting along right now?
  • Some would point to the sheer availability of pornography.
  • Is it what you’ve seen or heard others do?

Who or what draws the line for you? How far is too far? That’s avoidance.

“But I say to you.” Now let me show you how different the questions are with fulfillment. Instead of “How far is too far?”, fulfillment asks:

  • How can I sexually behave in a way that pleases God?
  • If God created me with sexual desire, how does He intend for me to control and satisfy those desires?
  • How can I restore sexual intimacy?
  • How do I sexually, emotionally, spiritually, and intimately connect or reconnect with my spouse?

The question is not “How do I avoid adultery?” That’s avoidance. The question is “How do I satisfy my God given sexuality within the boundaries of God’s command?” That’s fulfillment.

Pornography short-circuits intimacy because we live in avoidance rather than fulfillment. The line is always moving in a self-justifying direction. If you’re asking the wrong question, you’re living the wrong answer.

In the next post I will share the second way that pornography short-circuits intimacy; because we turn people into bodies.

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Check out this past post: Why Some People Never Get It!

The Fault in our Discernment

Today I want to teach on a word that seems to be sorely lacking in the Christian walk. Discernment. 
When it comes to making decisions we basically use two facets of our God given faculties; the thinking part and the feeling part. Generally we refer to these as the head and the heart.  
A person who is all head and no heart makes intelligent choices, but they are about as personally intriguing as a slug. Head without heart decisions come across cold, perhaps even selfish. They generally lack empathy.  Head statements are extremely factual, but they come across as bazookas to the souls of people who actually have a heart.
The alternative extreme is heart with no head.  Here I give you a range of characters from the daredevil to the hopeless romantic.  I know it is hard to think of Romeo and Evel Kenievel as being closely related, but on either side of the scale, heart people usually end up with lots of broken things or perhaps even emotionally dead.  Heart decisions are not very smart ones, but they felt great.  It seems SO right, but there is little investigation of the facts or thought of the consequences.  
Enter discernment.  Discernment is the wondrous merger of these decision making faculties.  Discernment is allowing something to play the strings of your heart, but then stepping away to think about it before you make a judgment call.  Discernment is the ability to see the facts, but to think about a way to phrase things so that the Romeos in the room are not left breathless, flopping around in the floor at your statement.  
Add to discernment the Bible and we have an even more powerful equation, Biblical discernment.  Biblical discernment is to do what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 and “take every thought captive to obey Christ.”  I challenged my readers to exercise this capacity when it came to the recent backlash over the movie Noah.  I was intrigued by much of the Christian community protest of the film, so I asked a simple question, “How Biblical are your other movies?”
Case in point, here we are with A Fault in Our Stars and as an onlooker I am seeing also a fault in our discernment.  It seems that we are throwing our heart into this film, but leaving our heads, and most importantly our Bibles, behind.
I have not seen the film, but from the previews I can pretty much give you the plot.  Two terminally ill teenagers fall in love in the last days of their lives.  As they struggle with the idea of fate and the question of “why” love trumps all and I’m sure sex is a major part of the equation.  Right?
Admittedly, in seeing the preview I too was intrigued that this is a film with an interesting premise.  Will I watch it?  Probably not.  There is an element that seems to rise above traditional chick flick that is interesting to me, but I do tend to enjoy a little more muscle in my movies.  

Whether or not I see the film, I can tell you something I will not be doing.  I will not be taking my daughters to see it (at least not without some serious conversation for which I need to be majorly, Biblically prepared).  I certainly will not be uncritically celebrating it.  Why?  1) Because I am a Christian parent and 2) because it is what I thought it was.  It is a film that has some redemptive ideas, but in the end is a distortion of Biblical truth (what we believe) and Biblical ethics (how we behave).

If you are not familiar with this tool, allow me to introduce you to a valuable one.  It is PluggedIn.com.  It is a movie review site offered by Focus on the Family.  Before I take anyone in my family to a movie, myself, my wife, or my daughters, to PluggedIn.com first we will go.  The site offers a fair review of films with solid Biblical discernment – head, heart, and Bible in hand.  Each review is broken down into the succinct categories, Positive Elements, Spiritual Content, Sexual Content, Violent Content, Crude or Profane Language, Drug and Alcohol Content, Other Negative Elements, and then a very insightful, Biblically discerning Conclusion. 
Here are the concluding remarks from PluggedIn’s review of Fault in Our Stars.  Notice the involvement of the head, the heart, and the Bible.
“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world,” Hazel says. “but you do get to choose who hurts you.” That’s a strangely powerful statement, I think.

Sadly, one fault Hazel and Gus share is that they don’t always make the wisest of choices. They sleep together. And they prefer to see themselves as pawns of the stars, not beloved by those stars’ Creator.
This isn’t an anti-Christian film, exactly—just spiritually uncertain. Nor is it saturated in sex or depravity. This isn’t a bad movie, really. In many ways, it’s quite good.
But here’s the thing: Because it is quite good—a persuasive, emotional story with strong, positive messages about sacrifice, hard truths and true love—the bad stuff can come off as more persuasive than usual. It’s harder to see a loving God yourself when the characters you grow to care about can’t, or won’t. It’s harder to object to premarital sex while weepily watching Hazel and Gus—teens who might never get the chance to ever have sex again—get so much pleasure and fulfillment from it.

The Fault in Our Stars is, I suppose, a little like its title. For all its sparkly power, it has scratches and splits. We know immediately when a movie like Noah drifts away from its moorings. But it’s hard to see a film with crystal-clear eyes when you’re always dabbing them with a Kleenex. 

Do you see it?  I see here a film that reaches for the head, but finds no satisfactory answers and then goes straight for the heart.  According to what I have seen of the response to the film, mission accomplished.    
OK preacher, it’s just a movie.  Am I advocating some sort of stale, legalism that will eventually lead us to trash every movie except for the ones a church in south Georgia makes?  Will we have to hand over every Christian Oscar to Kirk Cameron?  I am certainly not condoning sanctified stupidity, but I am trying to slow the cart on the uncritical celebration by God’s people of something that appears to be at odds with the ethics of Biblical faith.  
If thirty-somethings don’t discern the message in this film, what do you think our 13 year old daughters glean as a take away?  Let’s face it, sex feels really, really good.  Is it true then that if we cannot reconcile the stars that it’s game on?  What if the “stars” are not cancer at your home, but a boyfriend you can’t stand?  What if it is dad’s rule that his kids don’t date?  What if your baby finds “true love” (which is ironic in that “true” is a total head word) but you, the parent is screwing up the alignment of the stars?  

Here is the truth (head).  At its core, the film seems to say that the Biblical ethic of sex doesn’t work in the real world of disappointing variables.  For a Christian parent, this poses a serious problem for the Biblically based message we teach and model for our children.
We need to be careful.  If we use our heart at movies but suddenly find that we need our head at home, the result is catastrophic.  What if one day we awaken and try to lead our children down discerning paths when there has been no prior precedent of head, heart, and Bible?  We may end up less like Christ and more like Romeo on a moral motorcycle attempting to jump Snake River Canyon.  When you do try to enforce a Biblical ethic in your home, your children will see the hypocrisy of it and reject your lead.  As believers we do not advocate situational ethics, but Biblical ones – in every situation.  We take every thought, even the hopelessly romantic ones on film, captive to Christ.  

Use your head, your heart, and your Bible.  Think! 

Why We are So Wishy Washy on World Vision

In case you missed it World Vision, a Christian relief charity focused on children in impoverished conditions, announced on Monday that it will change its hiring policies and will now allow same sex couples to work within its organization.  You can find out more information by reading an interview published by Christianity Today with World Vision’s U.S. President Richard Stearns here
That decision lasted until Wednesday when World Vision’s board announced it had made a mistake and had failed to be consistent with the Bible.  You will find that story posted here.  
I find World Vision’s actions, as well as the wide range of “Christian” reactions posted on social media and the blogosphere to be indicative of this current age of confusion.  It is symptomatic of the very thing Paul said we should not be in Ephesians 4:14b, “children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”  
Why is the church so wishy washy, confused, and compromising?  Why is our message so unclear?  Pointing back to Ephesians 4, Paul says in verse 13 that there should be some semblance of “unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” about us.  This means that what we say on Facebook and in blogs doesn’t have to match precisely, but I’m not sure how much room there is in the word “unity” for our message to be all over the place.
Why are we as we are in a time such as this?  Again, I point to the passage.  It is a systemic failure of the pulpit.  According to Ephesians 4:11, it is the assignment of the shepherds and teachers to equip the saints for all of this.  If anything this week has shown, it is that when it comes to homosexuality, missions, Biblical policy, and social posting we have some glaring inconsistencies in our equipment.
Being a pastor I would like to address my fellow pulpiteers, stoolpiteers, tablepiteers, or whatever you choose to -piteer as your furniture of choice for preaching; by offering a short laundry list of Biblical issues we have failed to faithfully address over the last few decades.  
Sex in and of itself is not a social issue it is a Scripture issue.  Sex in and of itself is not sinful.  It is the boundaries of sex revealed by God in Scripture transgressed that is sinful.  The boundary we are categorically crossing is that sex is reserved for free, enjoyable expression between a man and a woman in covenant marriage for the purpose of union and procreation.  The union of man and woman in marriage is a model of Christ and the church.  Anything else distorts the gospel and dishonors Christ.  This we call heresy.  Let’s be clear not only on what’s wrong, but why. 
The reason we are confused about homosexuality is because we are compromised deeply on the Biblical message of sex altogether.  Before there was World Vision there was a landscape of broken preachers and churches wrecked by sexual sin.  The track record of clergy abuse, rampant pornography, affairs, and sexual failings that has plagued the church for the last 30 years has led us to our current quagmire.  The reason we can’t get homosexuality right is because we can’t get holy heterosexuality right.
What are we to do?  Repent of our sin and return to faithful, simple preaching of the full counsel of the Word of God.  Sex outside of marriage is sin – all of it, not just the homosexual version – all of it.  
If we are to return to faithful preaching we cannot return to where we were when I was a teen.  The only message I heard was that I was supposed to save sex for marriage.  O.K., then what?  O.K., now what?  
As a tempted teen we were told only to deny and resist.  We were never equipped in a gospel way to deal with the broader range of issues that surround sex, both positive and negative.  We just weren’t supposed to do it and we sure weren’t supposed to talk about it.    
True, God condemns fornication, adultery, and homosexuality, but that’s not all He said.  He also said that sex in marriage is to be celebrated and enjoyed.  We fail to equip the saints when we only condemn.  We should also affirm.  The Bible has a definite “No” but it also has a resounding “Yes.”  
Purity rings, true love that waits, and all of those youth camps that told us not to touch one another had their place, but because we never heard a single word from Song of Solomon, or Proverbs 5, or anything wonderful about what God has reserved for marriage, all we have now is a sexually dysfunctional laity of social media addicts who are, as I stated previously, “all over the place.”  
Don’t just preach to your boys not to touch the girls, teach them and show them how to be godly men.  The girls don’t just need to hear about modesty because they may “make a boy think a sinful thought.”  Teach them the model and reward of womanhood Christ has for them.  When it comes to homosexuality we are arguing socially, emotionally, and culturally and mistakingly calling it Christianity.  Hey preach, maybe its time we stop preaching 1,000 versions of our lame lists of how to be successful and develop some solid expositional sermons on how to be Biblically sexual.   
If homosexuality is wrong, what’s right?  Let’s not amputate the better half of our message again.  Why is marriage between a man and a woman better?  Why is it right?  How has God designed man and woman to unite?  What is it in the sexuality of a man and the sexuality of a woman that gives them the capacity to become one flesh in a way no other arrangement in creation is capable?  Even though Genesis 2:22-25 does carry with it some logical and simple refutations of the homosexual lifestyle, this is not the primary message.  I beg of you then dear pastor, please stop using Gen. 2 as a trite proof text that Adam didn’t have a husband named Steve!  Cliche‘ does not equip the saints, exposition does.  Preach Genesis 2 for what it is, a celebration of heterosexual covenant marriage.  The passage is not a stupid joke, it’s the gospel in its infancy.  If anything this week has proven, the saints have no idea how to articulate this message.  Again, the pulpit is to blame.
This leads me to our next glaring failure.  The reason we are confused on what to say about homosexual couples on the mission field is because we have been categorical failures when it comes to marriage at home.  Hey preach – when you cut on your wife and make jokes about her from the pulpit, it’s not funny.  Honestly, personally, it makes me want to punch you in the face – no joke.  When you ignore your wife and pay attention to her only when it benefits your “pastoral image” before “the people”, hey bro, the teens in your congregation are watching.  So are your kids.  The teens that have been watching this charade for 20 years are grown now – and they made a mess of Facebook this week.  Why?  Because they failed to see you faithfully model Biblical love for your wife.
Now they are divorced, abused, confused, broken and ashamed.  The reason they won’t take a stand on homosexuality is because they have watched everything else we tried to get them to stand on turn to quicksand.  
If we say homosexual marriage is wrong, dear God, please help us be more serious about getting Biblical marriage right; not just as something we say in the pulpit, but as something we model for YOUR people. 
What happened this week was that a generation of sexually broken, Biblically malnourished, confused adults tried to deal with something sexual and we stomped, fumed, condemned, posted, commented, and debated in the name of Christ but categorically failed to articulate a well grounded Scriptural message about Christ, the church, the gospel, and sex.  We were emotional, but not equipped.  We said stuff about sin and sinners and love and forgiveness and casting stones and all sorts of churchy gibberish what not . . . World Visions reversed their decision . . . Christian social media heads dutifully reversed their reactions . . .those that mourned on Monday rejoiced on Wednesday and Monday’s rejoicers became Wednesday’s mourners . . . but in the end we said nothing at all.  Why, because we are miles apart on Ephesians 4:13.  Why, because we are miles away from Ephesians 4:11.
For me, this week was not as much a commentary on our cultural compromise as it was an indication that the church is childish.  It is ill equipped to survive the social swirl, the angry churn of confusion Paul calls in Eph. 4:14, waves.  The decisions of Word Vision exposed the church as a weak swimmer in dangerous waters, with arms flailing, begging for help.  If we do not change the course of our preaching, if we do not connect the true gospel with sex, immediately, in due time there will be no reaction to these decisions at all.  Drowned men have little to say.

Intimate Thieves

Intimacy in marriage must be built and fueled like fire. The Bible teaches that a great deal of the burden for successful marital intimacy lies with the husband. In the Bible’s Song of Solomon, the pursuing man “works” at creating an environment that is suitable for combustion! Growing intimacy is be a natural by-product of healthy marriage.

The Book of Proverbs teaches that there are many things that will rob marriage of intimacy. Those things vary from financial insecurity, to nagging words, to alcohol abuse, to negative or hurtful speech. If these things are prevalent in a marital relationship the level of intimacy will erode. Debt affects sex. If a couple is struggling to make ends meet due to poor financial choices, intimacy will suffer. If a wife is critical of her husband, he will withdraw. It all works together. The Book of Proverbs readily warns men and women to beware of intimate thieves.

Perhaps the greatest of “intimate thieves” is the adulterous woman. Statistics show that over half of men in America and in the church are addicted to pornography. If statistics are taken of men who may not be addicted to pornography, but do sneak a peak, the numbers soar dramatically. Many men, and strangely some women, believe there is nothing wrong with viewing nudity, amongst other things. Some make the case that various forms of pornography can actually serve to enhance sexual intimacy in marriage. The Bible teaches that such thinking is dead wrong.

Pornography and viewing nudity are wrong simply because if it isn’t your husband or your wife, it isn’t yours to view! The Book of Proverbs and Song of Solomon is replete with the possessives “your” and “mine.” Intimacy has the greatest potential to grow in a relationship that is well defined, protected, and committed. Biblically that relationship is covenant marriage.

Outside of viewing something that is not “yours,” why is pornography and sexually suggestive images or movies an intimate thief? These things are intimate thieves because they do not require a man or a woman to work at marriage. It is instant gratification with no pursuit, no compliments, no studying of your spouse, and no sacrifice or sharing of the self. These things are the essence of intimacy. Pornography is gratification without commitment. Interestingly, pornography is intricately linked to homosexuality (and is often a gateway into homosexuality). Think about it. Romance novels that target women are written by women, for women, and feature men that behave according to female expectations and fantasies. It is in essence a man’s body and a woman’s eros. It is the same with pornography geared for men. Pornography for men features women’s bodies behaving according to the male eros.

With these truths uncovered it is easy to see how pornography, the male or female version, robs marriages of intimacy. Proverbs 5:15 uses the metaphor of a cistern to speak of marital intimacy. Within defined and committed boundaries, intimacy grows deep and is life giving. You can partake often and enjoy fully. There is no guilt, but total freedom. If you are seeking sexual gratification outside of marriage, you are not only sinning, but you are allowing a thief to invade your home. Repent of your sin and return to the safety and fidelity of covenant marriage.

Fire Starters

I was a boy scout. I don’t think that the Marine rule applies here as in, “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” Marines never say, “I was a Marine.” They say, “I am a Marine”, and then they speak Latin, “Semper Fi’.” I was a boy scout as in, “Be prepared.” I quit paying my dues about 1986 or ’87. Since then I have also forgotten how to start a fire.

We have a wood burning fireplace in our home. The fireplace has served as a reminder that there is an art to starting a fire. When I was a boy scout I could start a fire with a plastic tent peg and a wet rubber band. Now I don’t think I could start a fire if I had gasoline and a blowtorch. My wife bought a box of 48 “fire starter” sticks. When she starts a fire she uses one stick. When I start a fire, I use a baker’s dozen. I want fire! I am given to believe that if there is enough explosive material, fire will generally follow. My wife strategically stacks wood. She is more interested in taking the time to create a combustible environment.

The key to starting a fire is creating a core of heat that gets hot quickly and has the potential to get even hotter. There must be something combustible to fuel the flame and in a sense, enough airflow, an updraft of oxygen, to fan the flame. If the environment is not conducive to fire, forget about it.

By the time many couples come to me for counsel; the fire is long gone. The number one complaint of men is that there is no more sex. Women complain about various things, lack of trust, communication, attention, etc. Men want fire. Women enjoy the experience of strategically stacking wood.

The Bible’s Song of Solomon is about strategically stacking wood, creating a core of heat, and fanning the flame. It is about a man who takes the time to pursue, admire, and compliment his lover. He builds an environment conducive to fire. In the end, there is flame. The Book of Proverbs is about men and women of character. In the end a man seeks a wise woman and together they enjoy financial security, marital fidelity, and mutual edification. He is complimentary. She does not nag. He devotes his love to one woman. She prepares her bed for him. He praises her. She has no problem giving her love to him. They have fire!

Is there fire in your marriage? Pop culture teaches that the longer you are married it is only natural that there will be less fire. The Bible teaches that the longer you are married, the bigger the fire. Good marriages stack wood in strategic places every day. They continue to add fuel to the fire and they fan it with edifying words. Proverbs 5 teaches that giving oneself to lust is enticing in the beginning, but ends in death. It is the death of marriage, reputation, and character. The alternative is for a man and woman to commit wholeheartedly to one another and their love grows to the point that they become “intoxicated” with one another. Passion in marriage, like fire when it has fuel, will grow and burn. Growing intimacy in marriage is natural. Despite what we have been led to believe by pop culture, it is unnatural to lose passion in marriage. If there is no fire in your marriage, something is dangerously wrong. It is important to pinpoint the things that are quenching your fire, rid your marriage of them, and begin restoring intimacy and passion in your relationship.

What Are the Issues?

This is the final post that seeks to answer the question, “What should preachers preach about sex?” I have sought to establish that preachers certainly need to preach the Biblical message about sex which not only includes forbidding sex outside of marriage, but celebrating sex within marriage. If preachers neglect to preach both messages, they neglect to share the full message of Scripture with their congregations. Furthermore, history has proven that when the church fails to hear the full message of Scripture regarding sex, it distorts the idea of marriage and inevitably creates a loose sexual climate within the church. That being said, the modern church is in dire need to hear the full message of Scripture with regards to sex and marriage.

What are the sexual issues in our churches and culture that need to be addressed from the pulpit? There are many. Just because something is ignored does not mean that it does not exist. Preachers do not usually preach about elephants, but elephants exist. Metaphorically elephants exist in churches. The elephant in the room is a euphemism for something extremely obvious to all, but no one is talking about that certain something. That something is what may be referred to as “the elephant in the room.”

When it comes to sexual sin and dysfunction there is an elephant in the church auditorium. Each week the pews are filled with confused people whose marriages are suffering. The pews are filled with people who are living in sexual sin. Statistics show that just over 50% of men who attend church are addicted to internet pornography. 30% of pastors are addicted to the same. Youth group teenagers are “sexting”; which is taking sexually suggestive and/or nude picture of themselves and sending them as a pix message to another person’s cell phone. Women who attend church are reading romance novels that are laced with erotic themes. Pornography designed for men is built on images. Pornography for women is built on words. Romance novels are to women what Playboy is to men.

Christian families subscribe to cable television packages that include movie channels which readily show pornographic material. I want to make this statement without statistical proof, but I believe I would be hard pressed to be proven untrue. If a family subscribes to these movie packages there is a problem with pornography in the home. At the very least the problem is that pornography is in your home. Most Christian parents would not think of buying Playboy magazines and using them as coffee table pieces. They would consider it shameful and wouldn’t dare take the chance that their children would flip through the pages. So what’s the deal with HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime? How is that any different? If it is there, it is there! It is dangerous and it will be used! If you are foolish enough to subscribe to these channels and not consider them dangerous, may I also suggest to you a pet tiger, or plastic explosives you can use as silly puddy, or a quick game of “sharp knife toss.” “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned (Proverbs 6:27)?”

Another strange anomaly taking place in the Christian family is the lack of sexual intimacy. Christian couples are marrying and quickly growing cold. This is due to many factors including stolen intimacy from pornography, failure to communicate, pressures of failing stewardship, and so forth; but one thing that never ceases to surprise me as a pastor who counsels Christian couples is that most couples believe a lack of sex in marriage is normal. It is a sit-com theology that says once you’re married, sex is no fun. I have cited several passages in my posts on these matters, but one does not have to read the Scriptures very far to realize that married couples who are not active with one another sexually are rare. For a married couple to not have sex, Biblically, is weird, strange, and odd. Something is horribly wrong. In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul encourages Christian couples to engage sexually, submitting one’s body to his or her spouse, and refraining for sex only in short, agreed upon seasons. Paul implies that if a couple is not having sex it may give Satan an opportunity to tempt (1 Corinthians 7:5). Again, the Bible teaches it, therefore preachers should preach it. Sex outside of marriage is wrong, but sex inside marriage is to be celebrated and enjoyed.

Preachers are to feed Christ’s sheep and help them walk in Biblical paths. Pastors who cherish this call will not neglect to instruct the church on sexual topics. If he preaches the Word faithfully he will not be lewd and inappropriate. If he preaches the Word it will edify the flock and sanctify marriage. If he preaches the Word it will guide the church in Christ likeness and holiness. Preach the Word, all of it!