A Covenant Worth Keeping
Last Friday Hulu released a four part documentary on former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Hulu says that it is an intimate portrait of a public woman who at once became the most admired and vilified woman in the world. As you might expect, there are some interesting moments, as well as some pandering in an attempt to recreate Secretary Clinton’s reputation. The third episode the documentary deals with President Bill Clinton’s impeachment over his affair with Monica Lewinksy, who was serving as an intern in the White House.
In the documentary Bill Clinton claims that his affair with Monica Lewinsky was one of the “things I did to manage my anxieties". Which is a striking statement. While President Clinton admitted that it was a horribly bad and destructive decision; his comment shows that he believes that an adulterous affair which caused an impeachment trial, and a lot of uncomfortable discussions around dinner tables was just as normal as exercise, taking medication, or other ways we deal with stress. In essence President Clinton did what we always do with sin, he rationalize his choice to follow our culture instead of our Creator.
I read this week that over 90% of sex portrayed on television, including network, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Netflix, is between people who are not married to each other. Our culture glorifies "recreational" sex, Hollywood emphasizes "casual" sex and "safe" sex. But when God was describing the relationship He desires to have with His children, He gives us the 7th commandment about "sacred" sex.
I understand that we still have a lot of Victorian ideas and beliefs, especially when we talk about sex. That’s why many people are surprised to discover that God and Scripture have a very positive view of sexuality. God is not anti-sex or prudish. In fact, your Bible devotes one entire book to the subject of physical love and is quite graphic in its celebration of the beauty of sexual love.
When Trista and I got married a professor and friend of mine at Faulkner gave me a book he had written entitled, Sex Begins in the Kitchen; a study of the Song of Solomon. It was really my first look at this story of two young people who fell in love and celebrated the gifts of marriage, and in my mind it was salacious. I mean you shouldn’t talk about such things in mixed company, and you really shouldn’t describe such things among proper people. But what I realized is that while good Christian people often have a hang up about discussing sex, we forget that God doesn’t share our hang up’s, I mean sexual relationships were His idea in the first place.
It was in God’s plan to design man and woman for each other. But Satan has deceived our whole society so completely that we have lost touch with any sense of what God originally intended sex to be. The Lord does not view sex as something secretive, but He does view sex as something sacred. We live in a culture that knows everything about sex and almost nothing about real love and commitment.
I find it interesting that our culture agrees with portions of God's design. For example, we agree that it’s a good idea to follow You shall not kill and You shall not steal. But when we start talking about sexual values, the culture stands up and says, Wait a second! That's not a public concern. That is a private affair. What happens behind closed doors does not concern you. But our culture doesn't seem to understand that any set of ethics that support a society must support its families, because society is essentially a union of families. Communities can’t thrive when families don’t function well. Families don’t function well when marriages fall apart. And marriages cannot last without commitment and trust.
What God forbids in this 7th Command is adultery. But what He is concerned about is marriage. Simply put, adultery is a mockery of God’s design for a man and a woman. The 7th command is intended to preserve the sanctity of marriage, and our culture. What we all know is that when a marriage breaks down, so does everything that is connected to that marriage.
When you commit adultery you violate more than an oath, you violate another person. You break the bond of trust. You violate everything that God holds sacred in this relationship that is to be shared between husband and wife. I’ve watched men and women who have tried to readjust to life after their spouses have died. And I’ve watched men and women who tried to readjust to life after their spouses were unfaithful to them. Without fail it is always easier to move to your new normal much quicker after a death than it is following a divorce because of unfaithfulness.
Kids are the collateral damage when parents treat their marriage vows like a lease agreement. Ask any teacher or coach to tell you stories about their students who parents are divorcing. Kids who have been good students suddenly start failing tests, neglecting homework and suddenly start spending time in detention.
Friendships are collateral damage in an affair. When two people have an affair, every relationship they have is betrayed. Friends are forced to choose sides. Who do you sit with a ball games, concerts or you kid’s performances? When a husband and wife divorce because of an affair, which friendship do you keep? Which do you try to maintain? One or the other or both will suffer in some way. The truth is, there are no winners when someone commits adultery. It is relational nuclear warfare. Everyone, the entire culture, is affected by the fallout.
That’s why God is so interested in our marriages. At the heart of marriage is the permanence of the covenant. God did not make woman just so man could reproduce or release anxiety. God made the woman because the man was lonely, and God's chief aim for woman was to be a perfectly suited and equal companion. God wanted mankind to experience a relationship that had a permanent bond. Someone with whom you could share the joys and struggles of life. Even before we understood how this all worked.
In 2008, Dr. McIlhaney and Dr. Bush released a book Hooked, New Science On How Casual Sex Is Affecting Our Children. The book details what they discovered after 20 years of research of how sex effects the brain. Even though I totally geeked out reading their research, I won’t bore you with all of the details. But I mention the book because I want to share a mustard seed of what they discovered, and God knew all along. Your brain produces neurochemicals that determine your mood, your behavior, and your health. That’s why we love the thrill of a roller coaster, or the taste of a good meal, or the feeling of being wrapped up in a fuzzy blanket. Each activity produces one or two neurochemicals. But there is a singular activity that simultaneously produces dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin. These are the neurochemicals that make you feel good, they drive you to seek more of an experience, and they bond you to another person. The activity is physical or sexual contact.
Basically, their research debunks this idea of a one night stand. Everyone you have a physical relationship with is not only sub-consciencly stored in your memory, your mind and body will always yearn for more contact with that person. The more people you have sex with, the less chance you have to find happiness and fulfillment with any single person.
Do you remember what happened when God brought Adam and Eve together in the Garden of Eden? He told them, Now this is the reason a man leaves his father and his mother, and is united with his wife; and the two become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24). And that why when Jesus repeats this story He adds, Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate (Mark 10:9). Because actually once you mind becomes bonded you can never separate that bond.
Ok let’s get out of the Psychological talk and look at it a different way. In my garage I have this stuff called J.B. Weld. When you buy it, it comes in two tubes, and you are supposed to squeeze a little bit out of each tube and mix them together for the magic to happen. As long as they are separate nothing happens but if you mix the two together they form a bond that can hold a diesel engine together. Separate they are nothing special, but when you join them together they form an unbreakable bond.
Remember, sex was God’s idea. In His grand design, God created sex to be sort of like the chemical reaction that allows two people to become one durable substance. It solidifies two people into one flesh. It bonds them emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically. It sets and strengthens the relationship between husband and wife, that’s the whole purpose of a sexual relationship. And that’s why having a sexual relationship outside of marriage is such a big deal, because it bonds you to someone you don’t belong to.
God's purpose for marriage is togetherness, and the strength of marriage is in the covenant. Marriages last when both people give themselves fully and permanently to one another in the face of an unpredictable future. We don't know what's going to happen tomorrow or what life holds thirty years from today. But we make a vow to each other and to God that in the midst of all the unknown of our future, there will be this known: that we will be together, committed to one another, whatever may come.
You might be surprised to know that the Bible talks about two kinds of sexual sins, but when the church addresses the subject, we tend to talk only about one. I am sure this is not the first time you have heard a sermon or Bible class teaching that it is wrong to give our bodies to the wrong person, and that is clearly true. But in an effort to be proper, our churches have been afraid to teach the rest of God's plan for human sexuality.
There are two sexual sins, the first is adultery while the second sexual sin God condemns is keeping our bodies from the right person. That’s what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 7:5 Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control. While sex is a physical act, it is so much more than that. Committing adultery strips this beautiful gift down to merely a physical act, and we divorce the beauty from the gift. My friend Trey Morgan writes, “There is more to a strong marriage than good sex. But you will never find a strong marriage without it.”
Adultery is such a big deal to God because it’s when we take sex, which He designed as a beautiful and meaningful gift, and use it in a way that makes it vulgar and cheap. Let me be clear, adultery is not wrong because sexual passion is wrong, God condemns adultery because it uses sex to divide and break up rather than to cement a covenant.
God treats sex as something holy, while our culture uses the gift to promote depravity. The problem with distorting our view of sex, is that it also leads to a distorted view of the people created in God’s image. In other words, disposable sex makes for disposable people, and it’s impossible to love people that you believe are disposable. Which is why God gave us the commandments in the first place. Remember, God gave us the commandments so we would know how to live with Him and with one another.
As we draw this teaching to a close this morning, I need to switch gears. There is another side to this commandment. And like many of God’s commandments, over time we have twisted them to say something that God never intended. Today there are people in our fellowship who believe and teach that adultery and all sexual sins are unforgivable and unpardonable. Our nation was rocked several years ago when someone in our fellowship actually committed murder because they believed that murder was forgivable where breaking your marriage covenant is not. That is a gross perversion of this commandment.
I find a lot of solace in what Paul writes to the Christians living in Corinth: Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
The family of God is the best place in the world for adulterers to be. It always has been. If you’re guilty of adultery, you are invited to come and sit right down next to the drunkards, the greedy, the swindlers, the liars, and all the rest of us sinners who desperately need the blood of Jesus so we can stand justified before God. We are called to join Jesus at the table because He knows how desperately we need His grace and forgiveness. There is not a person in this building today that has the ability to throw stones at other people. This building is filled with people who need to admit how much we need God's Spirit to live holy lives. Everyone of us is broken and sinful. Each one of us have things in our hearts that adulterate our worship to God. All of us at one time or another have needed to hear Jesus say the same words He said to the woman caught in the act of Adultery: Neither do I condemn you. Go your way and sin no more.
This morning the 7th commandment is calling all of us to Flee from sexual immorality. … You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:18).
In other words, regardless of your marital state, if you are tempted to have sex outside of God's design, flee, run away before you dishonor the Holy Spirit's temple!
If this morning you are married the 7th commandment is calling to make your marriage a priority. Your spouse should not get your time, energy, or bodies after everyone else. God is not just interested if you are cheating on your mate, He also wants you to cherish your mate. God never calls us to do the minimum possible, we were created to do the hard and difficult things in life. The 7th commandment says do not commit adultery, but on a deeper level it teaches that God wants us to do the kinds of things that communicate we hold our partner precious.
Your marriage might be in the doldrums right now. It might be in a rut, and it might take a lot of work to rekindle that fire and make it burn again. But the price you pay to rekindle your marriage is far, far smaller than the price you pay for adultery. So make your marriage a priority. People of character work to enrich their marriage.
This morning as we gather at the tables I want you to know that if you are guilty of breaking the 7th commandment or any of the other 9, Jesus offers you grace and pardon. When we take the bread and the cup we are reminded of the sacrifice Jesus made to pay for our sins, all of them. Jesus says if you are willing to come back into a relationship with me then I am willing to offer grace and peace. It’s a loving offer from a loving Savior.