The Core Sunday Gathering

May 22, 2011

Love Life: Better Than Wine

Solomon & the Shulamite

-This message is going to be pretty different from most of my messages.

        -For one, I’m going to say the word Sex about a hundred times.

        -But also, it’s going to be less conversational than I usually like.

                -I love asking questions for discussion, but this is a very sensitive topic so I want it to stay fairly focused.

                -Plus there’s a lot of ground to cover…

-Pass out coloring pages

        -Raise your hand if you were the kind of kid who colored outside the lines. Now inside the lines.

        -Question: Are you still the same way?

-A lot of our generation sees sexuality like art, and in a lot of ways it is.

        -People will say to Color inside the lines, or outside, it doesn’t matter. Just express yourself.

                -They’ll tell you that anyone who makes a big deal about the lines is a prude, a puritan or a legalist.

                -And some of them are.

        -There are as many different perspectives on sex as there are people, and we’ll get to some of that

                -But first I want to take in some of God’s perspective, from the book of Song of Solomon

                -And it’s a little different than you might have learned in Sunday School.

-There are a lot of people who draw a lot of allegorical meaning from this book.

        -Because it is a picture of Jesus and the Church

        -So the lover represents Jesus, and the Beloved represents the Church.

        -But let’s dig deeper and see how that holds up:

I need a male volunteer at the mic who isn’t easily embarrassed to read SoS 4:1 You're so beautiful, my beloved, so beautiful, and your dove eyes are veiled. By your hair as it flows and shimmers, like a flock of goats in the distance streaming down a hillside in the sunshine. 2 Your smile is generous and full - expressive and strong and clean. 3 Your lips are jewel red, your mouth elegant and inviting, your veiled cheeks soft and radiant. 4 The smooth, lithe lines of your neck command notice - all heads turn in awe and admiration! 5 Your breasts are like fawns, twins of a gazelle, grazing among the first spring flowers. 6 The sweet, fragrant curves of your body, the soft, spiced contours of your flesh Invite me, and I come. I stay until dawn breathes its light and night slips away. 7 You're beautiful from head to toe, my dear love, beautiful beyond compare, absolutely flawless.

And now a female who’s not easily embarrassed: SoS 5:10 My dear lover glows with health - red-blooded, radiant! He's one in a million. There's no one quite like him! 11 My golden one, pure and untarnished, with raven black curls tumbling across his shoulders. 12 His eyes are like doves, soft and bright, but deep-set, brimming with meaning, like wells of water. 13 His face is rugged, his beard smells like sage, His voice, his words, warm and reassuring. 14 Fine muscles ripple beneath his skin, quiet and beautiful. His torso is the work of a sculptor, hard and smooth as ivory. 15 He stands tall, like a cedar, strong and deep-rooted, A rugged mountain of a man, aromatic with wood and stone.

-Does anybody have the guts to replace the word “lover” with Jesus, or “beloved” with Church?

        -No thank you.

        -The good news is that Jesus does not see us the way this lover sees his beloved.

                -And I hope we don’t see Jesus the way the beloved sees her lover.

                -There’s just so much wrongness there.

        -The even better news is that when the allegory fails, the literal meaning wins

                -And what’s left behind is a book that can’t be waved off as simply a big spiritual metaphor.

                -That means God actually thinks Sex and married love is worth a whole book in Scripture.

                -Name one other book of the Bible that’s only about a single topic.

-This makes some Christians pretty uncomfortable.

        -Because sex is so fleshly… flesh is exposed, flesh is aroused, but we’re not supposed to live by the flesh.

                -Question: What are we supposed to live by? The Spirit, right? Galatians 5:16

                -[SLIDE] The flesh desires things that are contrary to the Spirit. So SoS looks really unspiritual and sinful.

        -But there’s a problem when we divide up our entire reality into two categories: Spiritual and Secular.

                -[SLIDE] We get the error of Greek philosophy called ASCETICISM 

                        denying yourself every possible secular pleasure, because all created things are evil.

-[SLIDE] Then there’s the opposite error of HEDONISM, which we might be more familiar with

        -And that’s the mistake of fixating on our sexuality, and allowing ourselves every possible pleasure.


        -Both mistakes put sex on a pedestal; either as inherently a supreme good, or a supreme evil.

                -Like all other things, God created sex to be good, but not all by itself.

                        -Every blessing of God is connected to himself. It’s bound up in our relationship to him.

                        -God wants us to love him more than everything else he created

                        -Because he loved us first, and moreso than the rest of creation.

                -But out of all that other stuff; and every concept invented by God, Sex is near the top.

                -God cares deeply about it, and he created us to care deeply, too.

[SLIDE] Why God loves Sex:

  1. [SLIDE] It reminds him of creation. (Intimacy)

-When God created everything he said “it is good”

-When he created Adam and Eve, they were naked, and they were unashamed.

        -These are two aspects of Good Sex. 

        -One is nakedness, both literal and spiritual.

        -The 2nd is that there’s no place for shame. Two people being secure in themselves

                -Knowing that they’re loved.

        -This is the definition of intimacy. Two people being transparent and secure.

-And God loves this, because that’s how he created us to be. “That’s what I’m talking about!”

  1. [SLIDE] It teaches us how to give freely. (Sacrifice)

        -Of course we’re familiar with Jesus’ teaching “It’s more blessed to give than receive”

        -And that applies really well to Sex.

-Assign Scripture (MIC): 1 Corinthians 7:1-4 Now, getting down to the questions you asked in your letter to me. First, Is it a good thing to have sexual relations? 2 Certainly - but only within a certain context. It's good for a man to have a wife, and for a woman to have a husband. Sexual drives are strong, but marriage is strong enough to contain them and provide for a balanced and fulfilling sexual life in a world of sexual disorder. 3 The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality - the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband. 4 Marriage is not a place to "stand up for your rights." Marriage is a decision to serve the other, whether in bed or out. (The Message)

        -The NIV translates v.4: The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband.

                In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.

  1. [SLIDE] It shows us how Jesus loves the Church. (Faith)

                        -Yes, I just said that Song of Solomon is actually about Sex, and not just an allegory about Jesus and us.

                        -But the fact remains that the marriage relationship was designed to point to Jesus

                                -Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

                        -So that as we mature sexually, we can also mature spiritually, and vice-versa

                                -It may not be until we’re in a committed romantic relationship that we understand Jesus’ love

                                        -even if it’s to a very small degree

                                -And the more we learn about Jesus’ love, the better wives and husbands we can be

                                        -and the better daughters, sons, siblings, parents and friends we can be.

        -Whenever Christina and I go out of town for a few days, we usually leave our pets at the vet.

                -And when we do, we leave them a fairly detailed list of instructions and guidelines.

                -Why? Because we really care about our pets. They’re members of the family.

                -So we do what we can to make sure the vet takes good care of them.

                -It’s not a long list of rules, but it could be a lot longer if we thought it was necessary.

                        -We could add tons of things, like Don’t put Whiskey in the Dog’s water bowl,

                                -or, Don’t tie the Cat to a bottle rocket.

                        -And the Vet could see that list and complain “They don’t want us to have any fun at all!”

                        -But they’d be wrong, because we very much want them to have fun with our pets.

                                -But in a way that everyone can enjoy, including the dog and cat.

                        -I hope you were thinking about sex that whole time.

        -Some people see sex this way: It’s only fun if there are zero boundaries.

                -This is an idea that barely existed in the modern era until the sexual revolution of the 60s.

                -I’ve actually preached before about some of the benefits of the sexual revolution

                        -It removed some stupid boundaries, one of them being that women aren’t allowed to enjoy sex.

                        -But one of the detriments is that it tried to remove every boundary, every guideline.

                                -If it feels good, it is good. And if two people can feel good consensually, even better.

                -But as we all know, some of those boundaries were not just religious, but practical.

                        -And what resulted was an influx of STD’s, unwanted pregnancies and broken relationships

                        -So we have to wonder, when God sets up these guidelines, who are they supposed to benefit?

                                -Do we honestly believe in a God who is just imposing his personal stigmas on us?

                                -Or is our God the kind who cares more than anything that we live life to the fullest?

                -Because God’s primary motive for everything, is his love for his children.

        -Out of that love for us, God wants to remind us that Sex is stunning and priceless, but it’s also very fragile

                -So he wants you to take really good care of it, and here’s how you can do that:

  1. [SLIDE] Intimacy
  2. [SLIDE] Sacrifice
  3. [SLIDE] Faith

-Where have you seen this list before? It’s the same reasons God loves Sex.

-The reasons we care so much about Sex, are also the ways we can care for Sex.

        1) If we strive for Intimacy, we will avoid turning Sex into a toy or a game

                -We’ll seek out a soulmate, instead of a playmate

                -And our Sexuality can be safeguarded in an environment of real trust.

                                                -Men so often offer false intimacy to get Sex, and ruin both.

        2) If we strive for Sacrifice, we will avoid turning Sex into a weapon or a tool

                -that’s only there to get us what we want.

                        -If Men offer Intimacy for Sex, many women offer Sex to get intimacy

                        -But because the motive is selfish, the gift is insincere. And it does more harm than good.

        3) If we strive for Faith, we will avoid turning Sex into a distraction from our purpose.

                -Because Sex was created to point us toward Jesus, not away from him.

                -And the more we remember that, the more our Sex Lives can start bolstering our faith

                        -and stop confounding it.

-Love is a fragile thing, but even more than that, Love is Powerful.

        -Let’s go back and let the Song of Solomon bear that out:

-[Slide: Read Together] SoS 8:6b-7 – For Love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame. Many waters cannot quench Love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for Love, it would be utterly scorned.

-This is the strength of God’s love for you.

        -This is why he longs to give you gifts, like your sexuality.

        -Life in this world might frustrate you, but God’s desire is only to bless you, and mature you.

        -Your own sexuality may translate into married love, or it may not.

        -It will translate instead into a deep, deep understanding of God’s love if you let it                

                -which you can spread into a world where Sex is a barrier to love,

                -and selfless tenderness is completely unknown.

        -And every one of us has the opportunity to spread the gift.

                -You might think your past makes you ineligible

                        -But forgiveness is just as fully available for sexual sin as for any other kind.

                        -And God is longing for you to accept it and move forward in the blessing.

                -Or you may think that it’s your future getting in the way.

                        -That you are being called to never marry, or never marry again.

                        -But God is not hampered by anything.

                -No matter what our situation, we are Sexual creatures...

                        -And we are made to love with a love that’s better than wine, and stronger than death. 

                        -We live in a world full of death… but God has given you the key to revive it again.