ALIVE | SEX | Ephesians 5:1-16
Topic: New Testament Passage: Ephesians 5:1–5:16
Christopher Rich – January 12, 2020
ALIVE | The Way Unearned | PART X
ALIVE SEX | Ephesians 5:1-16
Introduction |Let’s Talk About Sex
Good Morning Welcome to Damascus Road where we are Saved by Jesus Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we continue our series walking the through the book of Ephesians called ALIVE: The way Unearned where we see life with God has been given to us.
In Christ, we have been made alive for a purpose. To live in the way God has created us. Both the rewards of and endurance in this life are by His grace alone so they are by nature unearned.
Living New - The way unearned is not a way unchanged. Sin needs to be turned from. We are not made alive by repentance, but we are made alive to practice repentance. In Christ, we have been gifted with soft hearts that illuminate our understanding of this new life. Like wore out clothes, our old life does not suit our new life. Parts of our old life will have to be taken off and new ways of being will have to put on.
This includes our sexuality – We have to talk about this topic because the world has been having this conversation. Not to shame but to equip and encourage us as disciples in a very confused world. This is sexually confused city of Ephesus. As we consider context of who and when this is written, it is not written to a Victorian our puritan culture seeking to maintain a joyless sexual ethic. It is to a city whose whole economy of was based in idolatry of sexuality. The Greek Goddess Diana and the temple Artemis is what the city was known for. This was originally written to people who may have been former temple prostitutes or at the very least had participated in the local religious and spiritual rituals that would have been focused around promiscuous sexual practice. This was an issue for the early church as nearly every letter written has some mention of sexuality. Because of the holistic nature of sex/sexuality (physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually) it is an essential part of our discipleship. We know sexual conversations, feelings, experiences, and activity are somehow different than other aspects of our lives. More than cultural taboos or our own experiences, something deep in our souls says this is both a unique and powerful part of our being that impacts us in so many ways. So as the letter transitions from the truth of the gospel of Jesus to the implications of that truth it begins with our relationship with God’s people (the church) and then quickly transitions into how it impacts our sexuality.
PART I | Worship or Wrath | Ephesians 5:1-6
Eph 5:1-6 |1Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
Imitation, immorality, impurity, idolatry and identity. Being Made Alive has implications for every aspect of our lives. From our new identity as “beloved children of God” we walk in a new way. This way is not characterized by pursuing self-indulgence or taking pride in our self-righteousness. The Way Unearned imitates Jesus, the one who worked to earn life for us. There is joyful submission and willing sacrifice, incudes having our sexuality in line with God’s design. We imitate God’s character and desire because we are first loved by Him not so we will be loved by Him. Christ love for us is self-sacrificial not self-indulgent so our love should model His, but the motivation of this self-sacrifice is joy! God, in Christ, loves us self sacrificially so we could live lives that are not self-focused but God focused for His glory and our Joy.
“Our problem with sex doesn’t begin with lust, with bad choices, or with sexual misbehavior. Our problem with sex begins when we forget that God must be at the center of this part of our lives as he must be with any other.”– Paul Tripp, Sex in a Broken World
God has given sex as a uniquely powerful and pleasurable gift to be enjoyed in a specific context. So being made alive by God doesn’t mean our sexuality dies, it means it becomes part of how we are truly alive with God. We aren’t putting our sexuality to death, we’re putting sexual sin to death. There is a difference. We cannot remain in pursuit of sin, rather we will actively flee from all forms of what the Bible describes as sexual immorality. To be explicitly clear in our sexually confused culture, Jesus, and each of the biblical writers, understood sexual immorality, (porneia) to be any sexual activity outside the context of marriage between one man and one woman. Wow, that covers a lot of things that are normative and celebrated in our world and our individual lives, that hits a lot of people. This is not God calling us to reject pleasure. Holiness and Hedonism are not mutually exclusive. The chief end of humanity is to know God and enjoy Him forever. God says at His right hand are pleasure forevermore. (Psalm 16:11) But we live a broken world.
Where is our world? Because of sin the world has lowered the authority of our sexuality from God down to ourselves, to you. This is a logical conclusion of a worldview that claims the autonomy of the individual as it’s highest value. My body, myself, my sexuality. This is us resetting the nexus of the universe from God to ourselves. We’re the authority. So what happens is, it only matters what we feel in the short term rather than what God has prescribed as flourishing in the long term. While not entirely new in human history, our culture has been engaged in a now half century long progressive divorce of the concept of sexuality from any sort of institution or intentionality. Marriage minimized as the context for sexuality and then redefined to be something less than God created. Abortion as birth control is the law of the land so we can maintain the greatest amount of control over the consequence of our decisions. Pornography has proliferated rampantly first in seedy theaters and magazines you’d be ashamed to be found in or with and now is on demand in our homes and phones. We’ve been simultaneously taught that what we engage with sexually is meaningless AND who we are sexually drawn to is so meaningful it should set our very identity. We been part of this experiment of unfettered “sexual freedom” for several decades that is really not all that new. And it has not led to greater joy and satisfaction, it has not led to greater consequences. It has not led to a more harmonious society. We are getting past the “hey this is fun” part and we’re starting to see the outcomes of this course of action. We pretend and boldly declare there is no such thing as sexual sin yet moments and events happen where we engage with or experience sexuality that leads us to feel pain or shame. Culturally we surprisingly still have some sexual taboos we cannot deny are beyond what is “right”.
But even with this is great confusion and contradictions. A culture who is quick to call anyone advocating for Christian sexual ethic a backward repressive bigot, fear mongering about a pretend slippery slope. We’ve now fallen off the slope, now having to use terms like Sexual harassment, Sexual impropriety, Sexual Misconduct. Each of these not subtly implying there actually is sexual activity/behavior that is out of bounds. So we watch them wrestling with the idea of sin, consequences, forgiveness, all without a consistent framework to address these issues. Maybe you say the world has an agreed upon ethic….
Consent - The word consent has become king. Have I allowed this or agree to this? What do I feel about this? Me and anyone else. Me and myself, me and a few others. So the confusion continues because if consent is king but then later we feel shame or in retrospect we didn’t like the outcome of the encounter or relationship we judge differently so we as a culture cannot have this conversation intelligently or with any agreed upon terms, boundaries, guiding principals because we cannot easily agree on what is an awkward date and what is a sexual assault. Sin has made complicated what God has made simple. But we are not driven by our circumstances we’re driving by our heart’s desires. Because of sin we will either minimize sex with crude joking, No crude joking – Why? Its taking something that God has made good and given it a gift and it has made it something less than, disgusting, or shame inducing. It’s is taking what God has given as a gift and turning it into something gross. It makes something to be enjoyed in it’s designed place and makes it “out of place” discussed in places and ways that are inappropriate. Rather we should be receiving it with gratitude and stewarding it for His Glory not be repulsed by it with puritanical legalism, or we will maximize the importance of sexuality to the level of idolatry and our very identity. Coveting – literally desiring something that is not yours. Lust is your desire to have another person for yourself. It is by nature self-focused. None of these will produce lasting joy but will lead us into shame.
Sex is a worship issue. It’s an issue of idolatry, one of worship. Sexual Immorality, idolatry, adultery, practice of homosexuality, are all about taking what is designed to be covenantal and makes it casual. Something intended for deep meaning and making it meaningless. Something designed to be complementary and fruitful and rejects natural design for unfruitful desire. It comes back to worship of self over worship of God. When you are walking in sin sexually you are worshipping yourself, your wants, and your desires above anyone or anything else. Because sex is a worship issues it is an eternity issue. We are designed for eternity but what eternity are we destined for? All sin separates. It separates us from God. Don’t listen to empty words that say you can have the pleasure that comes from God out of line with design and will of God without the consequences of the just wrath of God. A good and perfect God cannot be in communion and relationship with that which defiles. God is the ruler of His Kingdom. God’s kingdom is a righteous kingdom. Ours in a kingdom of sin. God cannot/will not cede access and ownership of His righteous kingdom to that which is unrighteous. It would cease to be righteous at that point. Now consider this in light of an eternity. Unchanged, unrepentant, think for a moment of the perpetrators of sexual violence, of those who have sinned against you sexually. Now consider them continuing to function and abuse in their own self interest for eternity as God’s viceroys of heaven with no threat or thought of justice or fear of death or consequences to restrain them. That would not be heaven it would be hell. So God is good and right protect the purity of the inheritance of the kingdom by keeping the kingdom pure. This is bad news for sinners.
PART II | Partner with Purity for Good | Ephesians 5:7-14
7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
The world’s answer for sexual sin and the shame we feel is to redefine it and celebrate what God condemns. God’s answer for sexual sin is Jesus pure and perfect work on the cross in our place. Our sin does not need to define us! As quick as there is sobering news on the destiny of those walking in sin in not inheriting eternal life or the kingdom of God there is great and amazing hope of the Gospel. Yes we all have sinned. But for those in Christ this is a past tense identity. No longer sons of disobedience but children of the King. In Jesus life/death in our place we have a new identity, we’ve been washed (sin cleaned) sanctified (Jesus righteousness given), and justified (Jesus absorbs the wrath of God we deserve) Its baptismal language. We have been made new, we are changed, we are righteous because of Him. There is no condemnation for those in Christ, but there is also no understanding of being In Christ that doesn’t include a change and conforming to the will and image of Christ.
From consent to covenant. We move from the worldly standard of consent to God’s sacred covenant. You once were darkness (not in darkness) now you are light (not in the light) it’s back to identity. We’ve been made new to be new, we’ve been made alive to live. So we wake up from a dead sleep to living out the truth of God’s design. Discerning His will, what is pleasing to the Lord, which is good, right, true, and fruitful. Purpose of Sexuality we need to discern what is the will of God. He’s given us so much in His word.
God’s moral laws are not simply a bunch of arbitrary rules given to restrict mankind's freedom. Instead, they are like operating instructions designed to spare people from suffering while maximizing human flourishing. - Kirk Durston summarizing Oxford Social Anthropologist J.D Unwin
Procreation (be fruitful and multiply) this is the way God designed full healthy complementary sexuality. The world of Genesis 1-2 is sinless created with a man and women naked and unashamed given the charge to be fruitful and multiply. God gave and created the covenant of marriage as He joined the man and woman together for them to be in union and communion with each other before God a joined as one flesh. This all sounds great. But sin has entered the world as humanity chose to pursue what they believe would lead to greater pleasure apart from God. This led to shame, separation, and disunity and disfunction. Relationships become self-driven rather than self-sacrificial. Obedience to God is replaced by obedience to our own desires. It also becomes broken when there is infertility or infanticide. Our sexuality also becomes broken when we limit it to the act of procreation. Puritanical and Elizabethan restrictions that limit sex to a biological function and ignore the relational, emotional and spiritual realities.
Protection (relationally intimacy) and security. This is where the context of a holy held together covenant is so important because it implies safety, security, and faithfulness. It’s a sign of a health marriage relationship when there is regular sexual activity. It is a bonding action where there are hormones releases that bond us to the other person when there is enjoyment. When Paul writes to another sexually confused church about sex specifically in marriage he is encouraging it in clear terms to not deprive each other sexually specifically to protect against temptation and the enemy of your joy and flourishing marriage.
It’s Broken when there is betrayal or when it’s practiced in something less than a protected state. Sexual Sin enters the marriage or is brought in there is shame and insecurity that rob us of intimacy and security. When the safety of the relationship has been violated or not properly established each side holds back rather than pressing in because there isn’t stability but uncertainty. Intimacy is replaced with isolation.
Pleasure - God made fulling his mandate be fruitful and multiply enjoyable Pleasure is God’s invention. Sexual pleasure is God’s idea. It is a gift from God to His people. At its purest form God has designed and hard wired us with a drive/desires for pleasure in this area. That in the proper context it will to bring greater intimacy. It will bring great comfort and consider how good our God is in His design that a properly directed pursuit of pleasure leads to the creation of new life!!! God designed us to desire that which can lead to new/greater/multiplied life. He has made the conception of another human an incredibly enjoyable experience requiring both intimate relationship with a man and woman AND divine intervention from God as the author of life. This is the goodness of sexuality that God has ordained from the beginning. So we have a conversation about living out God-given sexuality is not one not in contrast to pleasure but in pursue of that which will truly satisfy and lead to greater flourishing.
“By far the greatest functional heresy I believe is that holiness is boring and lustful selfishness is fun.” -Anonymous
Broken when we pervert God given pleasure to be mutually enjoyed into selfish desire. Or when it’s not cultivated but is rather assumed. Who has ever been the best at something the first time you’ve tried it? So when we’ve been told the reward for chastity before marriage is better sex during marriage and then the reality doesn’t measure up then there is frustration and even disillusionment. We begin to believe the lie that there is a ‘lack of sexual compatibility’ and think there might be a better partner for us when the issue is not a lack of compatibility but a lack of cultivation. This takes intentionality to address.
PART III | Thankfulness and Relationship | Ephesians 5:15-21
Eph 5:15-21 | 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Our sexuality needs to be stewarded wisely. So we are intentional about how it’s engaged with and the situation we find ourselves in and how we engage with temptation. So we are Discerning not drunk. Not how can I lower my inhibitions so I can make some bad decisions but rather raising our gaze to the God of all joy. We will either cultivate temptation or we will hold it captive. Temptation is not a sin. Let me clear to be tempted is not to sin. Think of the current insta-story trend… of a sign on your forehead that says “what Disney character are?” or whatever, if we had one that said “What impure thought(s) had have had in the last hour or day?” no one would hit share on that! The enemy wants you to believe lies to rob you of Joy. One that there is no sexual sin so whatever you think, say, and practice is perfectly acceptable and there are no consequences. Fine for you to walk on a path of self-centered destruction either now or in the life to come. Second is that your sexual sin (whatever flavor that may be) is SO different or so big that is beyond what Christ Died for, beyond the covering and cleaning of His blood. Third that God doesn’t understand your temptations. Jesus was tempted in every way we were yet is without sin. Jesus paid for our sin. Jesus succeeded where we’ve failed and he’s gave us His honor where we have shame.
Alive people are driven by new desires given to them by God. Alive people will desire purity over perversion. Gratitude not self-gratifying. Holiness and happiness are not competing enemies but complementary friends. Apathy to purity is easy and opportunities to participate in sexual sin abound. Don’t lust after others but instead see each other as brother and sisters in the family and kingdom together. Submitting to each other (lowering ourselves and our desires) with a reverence for Christ that we worship Him above all else. Following the way unearned means we will renounce lies which tell us true joy can be found outside of God’s design and walk with thankful hearts filled with the Holy Spirit. We sing song of God’s glory and our joy with hearts are in melodious alignment with God’s will when we Trust Jesus.