Godly Sexuality: Theological Assumptions
There are three theological assumptions that will be foundational in the godly-sexuality preaching series and, indeed, to the entire Christian life.
The first theological assumption is that the Bible is God’s Word. This means two things for us as Christians.
First, as Christians, the Bible is our authority. As the Protestant Reformers put it, it is the norma normata; that is, the rule and norm over every other norm. This is very important to affirm in the area of sexuality which touches on very personal areas of our life and relationships and on very powerful physical drives in our bodies. As a church, and as individual Christians, we must submit to the ultimate authority of God through Scripture over our lives, our thoughts, and our actions. Therefore, we should expect the Bible to confront and challenge all of us as individuals as well as as a church and as a society. We must refuse to make God into our “image”, a kind of “Stepford God” who fits into our cultural norms, attitudes and values. In the movie “Stepford Wives” a group of husbands in Stepford have the opportunity to make their wives into robots who are incredibly beautiful and who do their every bidding. These robot wives do not cross their wills. These men had, in essence, lost any real relationship with their wives because a real relationship with someone must include them being able to cross your will. We are not in a real relationship with God unless he is able to “cross our will.” God “crosses our will” in His Word. In sum, God’s Word is the authority over us and to which we must submit in every area of our life, including our sexuality.
Second, because the Bible is God’s Word, it is sufficient to guide us in every area of faith and life. So much could be said here. Think for a moment of Scripture’s massive sufficiency and potency: Through Scripture we learn of God’s love for us demonstrated supremely at the Cross. Through Scripture our Heavenly Father speaks to us, rebukes us, comforts us, pleads with us, and gives us His precious promises. Through Scripture God explains what is wrong with us and points us again and again to our Savior, Jesus. Through Scripture we learn where we need to repent and what a godly life looks like. Through Scripture we are instructed in and strengthened for our daily walk as Christians.
In particular, God’s Word is rich in its “good news” and practical instructions in the area of the healing of our sexual brokenness. Through Scripture we see what God designed us to be and how far we have fallen from his design. In its pages we learn of the deep sins beneath the sins that are “root sins” of our sexual brokenness (unbelief, idolatry, fear, shame, pride, religion, unforgiveness). Through Scripture, we see also learn of the “good news” for us in Jesus: (1) that Jesus lived the beautiful life of sexual purity and integrity that we should have lived, and died the death of judgment and punishment that we should have died, (2) that God raised Jesus from the grave and vindicated him, (3) that when we trust in Jesus, His perfect record (which includes his spotless sexual purity) is imputed to us so that we are not only forgiven of our sins, but, in the sight of God, positively “holy and blameless” and (4) that Jesus’ Spirit comes to live in us and begin to make us holy from the “inside out”. Through Scripture, we also learn that in Jesus we are no longer be covered in shame but are commanded to bring our sin out into the light, to confess our sins to one another, to repent and turn from them, and to, in Christian community, begin to experience the healing grace of Jesus. Through Scripture we also have set before us instructions, a path of godly sexuality. For example, in Proverbs we are given the eternal wisdom of sexual fidelity within and sexual chastity outside of marriage and we see an example of a father instructing his son. In the Song of Solomon, we are given the wisdom for engaging in passionate, romantic, sensual, covenantal married love. In sum, the Scriptures are sufficient to guide us in all of faith and life, and, in particular, to guide us in the area of godly sexuality.
The second theological assumption is that we are engaged in a spiritual battle. As Christians we must never forget that each of us is in a battle. AsSt. Paul put it, our “battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). As Philo of Alexandria put it: “Be kind. Everyone is fighting a great battle.” Traditionally this battle has been spoken of as having three “fronts”:
The first “front” is the battle with the flesh. By the “flesh” (Greek: sarx) we mean, not the physical body, but the sinful nature that is ever and always at enmity with God. The flesh hates God, hates God’s truth, and will never submit to God’s reign: “The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other so that you do not do what you want.” (Galatians 5:17-18). Regeneration, that mighty work of the Holy Spirit, plants a “seed” of God’s holiness in us so that (1) we are a new creation (I Corinthians 5:17), (2) have God’s spiritual DNA in us so that in our heart of hearts we want what is Holy, and (3) the Holy Spirit dwells within us. This new – deep down – principle of holiness and the Holy Spirit within us are in never-ending conflict with the flesh. So our bodies, our mind, our wills become the “battleground” where this war is played out. We feel this conflict within us and cry out “what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:14). Thus we are commanded, by the help of the Holy Spirit, to put to death the “misdeeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). In conclusion, as we step into pastoral care we must remember that each Christian is daily experiencing this mighty battle in their bodies in which the Spirit of Christ wars against the flesh.
The second “front” is the battle with the world. Used in this way, the “world” does not signify the earth or humanity, but rather the spirit of the age, the values and ideologies and mindset of fallen humanity that is in rebellion from God and does not submit to his Lordship. The “world” takes many forms. It can take the form of self-righteous religion that seeks to avoid Jesus as a Savior by denying the reality of personal sin and wickedness and that points to sin being “outside” the church, in the “sinners” out there. It can also take the form of secular materialism in its modern or post-modern varieties. Christians today must be on their guard against the world in all its forms: religion that hides sin and pretends to be righteous, that despises the wickedness it sees in “sinners” out there but fails to see its own pride and ungodliness; and the pervasive sensualism of our time that views “hook-ups” as natural, sex as a merely physical act, and the availability and access to pornography as, if not a good thing, an inevitable and natural part of life. In conclusion, in our pastoral care we must remember that the saints are navigating through this world with all of its traps and seductions.
The third “front” is the battle with the devil. The Bible teaches us that we have an enemy. This enemy wants to steal, kill and devour (John 10:10). The devil cannot create life or even pleasure. He can only distort, pervert, pollute and kill and the life, gifts, joys and pleasures that our Heavenly Father gives us. He is a liar; and his chief weapon in his arsenal is the lie. As sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, we are born into this world as children of the devil and as members of his kingdom. As Scott Peck put it, we are “children of the lie.” In his grace, God our Father has rescued of from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves (Colossians 1:13). Though we are in Christ’s kingdom we are still susceptible to the lie of the devil. We still bear in our minds and hearts many false beliefs. We still can fall sway to the lies of the devil, to the systems and ways of the world, to following the pack, and to the guilt and shame the devil uses to paralyze and pollute us. In conclusion, in our pastoral care for people we must never forget that they have an enemy who is seeking to devour them and destroy their lives and that he often does this through lies they believe. This is why insisting on Christians functionally believing the truth of God is so vital.
The third theological assumption is that the full sexual restoration that began at the point of regeneration (conversion) and is slowly progressing (sanctification) will be inevitably and unstoppably completed (glorification) in each Christian. The Christian is, therefore, a person of hope. Our hope is not in itself. It is in the Mighty Salvation of God. It is in the Faithful Perseverance of God. It is in the Power of the Gospel to deconstruct our broken selves and conform us into the presence of Jesus. Our hope is in the unswerving purposes of God’s sovereign will. It is in the Comforting and Healing Presence of the Holy Spirit our convictor and counselor. It is anchored on the bedrock of the Promises of God to finish the good work he has begun. Our hope clings to Jesus our incarnate, crucified, and risen LORD.
This means, consequently, that Christians also have great hope for others. We believe that there is no one beyond the grace of God. We believe that there is no one too trapped in sin and addiction that God’s grace can’t rescue them; that there is no one so enslaved to sexual sin that God’s grace can’t free them; that there is no one is so wounded by abuse that God’s grace can’t free them; that there is no one to hard of heart or to distant from God that God can’t pursue them. We believe, in short, in a Savior. A Rescuer. A healer. A Lion. A Lamb. The God who is the “I Am” and the “Alpha” and “Omega”. We are people of hope not only for ourselves but for others because we have experienced the amazing, pursuing, rescuing, freeing, forgiving, redeeming, restoring, regenerating, relentless grace of God.