Sex & Self Image (Jon Fryer)
Sex. Why’s that funny? Dog’s don’t snicker about their mating season. Monkeys are bright enough to have sex for fun, but they don’t tell dirty jokes about it. Dolphins are also bright enough to have sex for fun, but you don’t catch them logging on to the deep sea internet to go looking at fish porn (‘Cor, look at the fins on that!’)! So what’s the big deal?
In fact, why is our culture so obsessed by sex. Sex, sex, sex, sex, sex. It’s everywhere. You turn on the TV. Sex. You walk into a newsagents. Sex. You talk to teenagers. Sex, sex, sex. God, its so boring! Can’t we talk all think about something more interesting?!
If the everyday world is a veil pulled over your eyes to blind you to the truth, then sex is a very big part of that lie. Our culture bombards us every minute of every day with images and ideas that are not helpful to our walk with Jesus, until we find ourselves believing the lies without even thinking about it.
Lets look at just a few of our cultures lies. Lets talk about real life, truth and consequences.
First Myth. Our culture bombards us with the idea that sex is a right. You have the right to enjoy yourself in this way whenever you want. In fact, this is the central right of our society. It is the mark of being an adult – you are an adult when you have the ability to choose to have sex. This is the factor that is pushing you guys to have sex at an ever earlier age, because who wants to be treated like a child? Our culture equates adulthood with sexual intercourse. Our culture says that you can’t wait to have sex, because you are not an adult until you exercise your right to choose, until you use the power of decision to make this decision for yourself.
Why is that so bad? In Exodus 20 God gives the first of the Ten Commandments: ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me’. God wants to be the absolute centre of our lives. We are to have nothing in our life more important than Him. By making sex the centre of our culture, the centre of our desires, then we have displaced God and we have sinned. Our culture is sick because it has displaced God.
In fact, our culture has broken the second commandment as well: ‘You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God’. In ancient times the two main idols that the people turned away from God to worship were Asherah or Astarte or Aphrodite, who was the goddess of sex, and Baal, who is the god of power, of personal choice. By placing sex at the centre of our culture our society has turned away from the true God of the universe to worship an idol. By raising the concept of consumer choice to the most important right in our society, by saying ‘I have the right to choose all things in my life’, we have turned from the One God who loves us to worship empty power for its own sake. And let me tell you, every time you choose to gratify your sexual desires outside of the God-given context of marriage, every time that you say ‘My right to choose pleasure is more important to me than what God commands’, then you have turned away from God to serve Baal and Asherah just as surely as if you were bowing down before a statue of gold, and you worship at the feet of demons.
The truth is God says that sex is a gift from Him to be enjoyed only within the context of marriage between one man and one woman, and it is not a right to be exercised – it comes only as a gift from Him. God says that your right to choose is limited to choices within the framework of His commands so that He can protect you, and that sex outside of marriage is not an option for you, and that to choose otherwise is to commit idolatry, to worship something as if it were important than the God who loves you and wants what is best for you. Our culture lies when it says that consumer choice is the most important thing in the world – God is the most important thing. For us who have chosen Jesus, there is no choice, there is only God. And actually, when it comes down to it, it turns out that sex isn’t that important after all. I’m thirty, and I’m still a virgin. Strangely enough, I’m still here. My head hasn’t exploded. I haven’t died of unrequited frustration. I’m still an adult, still respected (by some people!), still living a fulfilled life – if anything, our culture wants you to conform so much that it wants to take away your real right to choose by making you just like everybody else. If anything, I define myself as a true adult because I exercise my right to not have to have sex – surely self control is more adult than simply doing whatever everybody else says? Our culture lies to you as easy as breathing.
Second Myth. Our culture, from the TV to those awful magazines that the girls read, tells us that you are not a whole person unless you are in a couple, unless you have a romantic partner. If anything, this idea that you are only a whole person when you are in a sexual relationship is just as pernicious as the lie that we have the right to choose sex whenever we want. This leads to all sorts of things. The entire porn industry is based on this lie. Porn isn’t really about sex – lets face it the biological mechanics of the sexual act really aren’t that interesting, and are even slightly ridiculous! What porn does is let you be in control. What porn does is let you feel wanted and needed and valuable without any of that annoying commitment and effort needed in a real relationship. The sexiest thing about the girl on page 3 is that she looks directly at you – she says ‘I’m interested in you, you’re valuable – you must be if someone like me is interested in you.’ When you think about it, that’s kind of sad. Sad in a ‘ that’s really pathetic’ kind of way, and sad in a ‘really sad’ kind of way.
And don’t think this one is just for the guys. Most of the girls I know are addicted to the romance game just as much, and for the same reasons, as a lot of the guys are to pornography. They are addicted to the passion, the thrill, the angst, and all the other feelings that go with serial dating because it makes you feel alive, it makes it feel like you are the centre of the drama, the centre of the story, it makes you feel important and valued and like a real, whole human being. Again, for both guys and girls, casual sex serves the same purpose – ‘I must be important ‘cos someone is spending this time with me’. It’s self centred, its selfish, and its ultimately empty, because the only person we can really get our identity from is the God who created us. If you are His child, if you are in love with Jesus, then He says to you ‘You are my beloved child. You get your identity from Me and Me alone, as a child of God. You are a whole person.’ The sad irony is, God sees us as whole people, as His beloved children, and its only when we turn away to other things (like sex or pornography) to find our identity that we actually lose ourselves in a lie. ‘Who is this that appears like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, majestic as the stars in procession?’ That’s who you are. That’s how God sees you. Why do you need anyone or anything else to tell you who you are, that you’re important, that you are valued? You are so important, so valued, so out and out loved that God died to make sure that He wouldn’t lose you.
Third Myth. Our culture bombards us with the idea that sex is powerful that it can’t be resisted. ‘I didn’t mean to sleep with her, it just happened’. Sorry, that doesn’t wash. You don’t go walking down the street and accidentally end up having sex. You are not dogs, at the mercy of your biology. You are human beings with the power of rational thought. Here’s a story from the Bible. 2 Samuel 11: ‘In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king's men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, "Isn't this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her.’ The story has tragic consequences – David murders her husband and marries her, but God is angry and their child together dies. But lets look a bit more closely at how David comes to do these things. Firstly, it’s the time when kings go off to war. David is a king, so he should be off fighting a war… but he stays at home with the womenfolk. And then one night, when he should be asleep, he decides to go up to the roof of his palace – in a city full of women, what does he expect to see? – I suggest to you that he wasn’t going out there to look at the moon! So he sees this woman bathing – what does he do then? He sends someone to find out about her. Then what? He calls to have her brought to him ‘to talk’. ‘We were just talking, and somehow we accidentally ended up sleeping together!’ Yeah, right. At every step of the way David could walk away, but instead he chooses to put himself in a place where he gets more and more tempted at every step. The bible tells us to resist the Devil and he will flee from you, that there is always a way out from any temptation, even the temptation to sin sexually. No temptation is more powerful than the God who guards us. Sex is not more powerful than God. The best way to resist the devil and avoid temptation is to give him no opportunities to tempt us to sin in the first place. For example, if drugs are being passed around at a party, the best way to avoid temptation is not to be there! Like David, I think that often we try to fool ourselves. We say: 'Oh I'll be alright if I go to this nightclub / go out with this person / watch this film / whatever. I'm strong enough so that it won't be a problem.' Its not true. Satan is lying back in his armchair and laughing, saying 'Hey, they're doing my job for me!'. Don't be there. Don't give him opportunities. If you go looking for temptation then it will find you.
All of these lies, the lie that you must choose sex to be an adult, that you must have sex in order to be loved, that sex is a powerful force that we are helpless to resist, are lies that we in the church had best unlearn, since they come from the Devil who is the father of all lies and who wishes us nothing but profound harm.
We’ve talked about truth, lets talk about consequences. What are the consequences of these lies? What happens if we treat this gift of God as a right to be seized just because we want it? Firstly, sexual sin is like all sin. Its progressive, its addictive, its deadly. Sin is always progressive – you always want to go further, to experience more. If you look at one porn site, you want to see more, even more graphic. If you have one illicit encounter with your boyfriend then you want to push the emotional experience higher next time. Sin is always addictive. You always want more regardless of the cost. Its always easier to say yes the second time. Its always harder to resist the third time, because hey, we’ve done it before. Sin is always deadly. The Devil is a liar who wants to kill and destroy. The more you sin, the further you move from God, the deader and more desperate you become inside, and the more you return to your addiction to try and fill the hole inside that only God can fill.
The second consequence is that sin entangles. The Bible says so. Sexual sin entangles us even more so than any other sin for a simple reason – sex was designed by God so that two people who are married to each other might be joined together indivisibly - ‘and so a man shall leave his family and join with his wife, and the two shall become one flesh, one spirit, one soul.’ When you join yourself sexually to a person you also join yourself spiritually and emotionally, and this is a profound bond that can be very difficult to untie, and which may haunt you for years to come. There is no such thing as just a physical sexual experience – it is always emotional and spiritual as well, even if you do not realise it. We are whole people, not just bodies, and we relate to each other as whole people, and we relate to God as whole people. God wants just three people involved in a sexual relationship – Himself, you and your wife or husband – if you chuck in lots of other people into the mix then the whole thing gets very messy and confused.
This leads us to our third consequence. The third result of sex outside of marriage is damaged relationships: damaged relationships with God, damaged relationships with your current partner, damaged relationships with your partner in the future, damaged relationships with your self. If you your consumer’s right to choose before what God wants, then you deliberately spit in God’s face and say that not only is His gift meaningless, but that He has no place in your life, that He is not on the Throne. If you choose to cheapen God’s amazing wedding gift by using it to just scratch a biological itch then you devalue your current partner to nothing more than a prostitute whom you are using for your own pleasure, and you withhold that unique gift of yourself from your future spouse. And if you misuse God’s wedding gift to you in order to just make yourself feel good now then you are simply saying ‘I’m a needy individual who isn’t a real adult and who needs something else to help them to pretend’. All of these broken relationships spill over into other parts of our lives – how we see ourselves, how we see God, how we see the opposite sex, how we see our children, how we see everything. Sin is poisonous to your entire life.
Those last consequences are kind of harsh. I’ve told the truth, and having society’s comforting lies stripped away from us can be very uncomfortable. So where’s the good news? The good news is that whatever you have done, or whatever you will do, God still loves you. He loves you. He loves you and He loves you and He loves you and He loves you, and there is nothing that you can ever do to stop God loving you. None of the stuff that we have talked about can ever stop God loving you. The good news is that Jesus died not only to give us forgiveness for whatever it is that we have done, but that He came to bring us restoration too. Whatever the matter is, whatever we have done or has been done to us, Jesus can put it right. There is nothing that God can not put right. When we come to Jesus, He wants every part of us, and that includes even the parts that no one else would want. Jesus wants our brokenness. He wants all of the areas where we are tempted or have given in to temptation. He wants our broken relationships. he wants our fractured self image. And he wants to take all of these and he wants to nail them to the cross until they die, and then He wants to give them back to us resurrected, and made perfect, and healed. And he wants to come gently, as our One True Lover, and to give us a gift. And that gift has many forms: He wants us to know who we are. He wants us to know that we are loved, even when it feels like no one else loves us. He wants us to share in that love with a partner in the healthy context of marriage rather than in the broken and damaged one of casual sex. He wants you to know that there is always a second chance, and if you have broken his gift to you in the past, then He can make it new again for you, and that its not too late and that you can be born again and everything in the past can be washed away. He wants you to be free of all the things that entangle you and hold you trapped in hurt. He wants you to know that you are strong enough to be who He wants you to be, and that in His love you are able to stand against the Devil and all the harm that he wants to do to you. And most of all, he wants you to know that he thinks that each and every one of you is the most beautiful thing in the entire universe. Do you know how beautiful you are?
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The Character of God
How do we know what God is like?
The Authority of Scripture
How should we obey what the Bible teaches us?
The Wise Mans Tragedy
What can we learn from Solomon?
What can we learn from the mother of Jesus?
Cain and Abel
What can we learn from the first murderer?
Who is Aslan? Who is Jesus?
When the Fire Burns Low
How do we cope when we have grown tired of God's way?
Fix Your Eyes
How do we look for God?
Why should we look after the world God has given us?
How do we know who we are in God?
Lent - Pride, Doubt and Jealousy
What is the period of Lent all about?
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the House of God than dwell in the tents of the wicked...
How do get to have intimacy with God?
Can we feel the breath of God?
Hearing From God
How can I hear what God wants to say to me?
The Story We Find Ourselves In
The Bible tells the story of all creation - what is my part in that story?
What does Passover mean to us as Christians?
What does it mean to say that Jesus is alive?
What is the Fruit of the Holy Spirit?
Teaching for Christmas Eve...
What does it mean to have authority?
What can we do when it all seems like too much?
I Will Be With You
What does it mean to say "God is with us"?
What are angels, and what can we learn from what the Bible says about them?
A contemplative service for Pentecost
A creative/contemplative baptism service
How do we know what we should do?
A creative prayer/worship service
The Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?
A Relationship With Jesus
What does it mean to have a 'relationship' with the Son of God?
The Pilgrim's Progress
If we keep our eyes on the prize, what a journey it could be!
Heroes, Promises and Trust
How does our relationship with Jesus realy work?
A liturgy for masculine prayer
Living Life to the Full
How do we get the most out of life?
What is so speacial about the faith of Abraham?
The Presence of God
What does it mean to say God is present?
How Do I Know My Faith is Real?
We all wrestle with doubt, so how can we cope?
Who is Jesus?
...and what does he want from you?
To Act Justly Every Day...
What does the Lord your God require of you?
Sex and Self Image
Don't you know how beautiful you are?
Will you let Jesus be in charge?
Would you know him if he met you on the road?
The Person of the Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?
The Passion of the King
What does Jesus really want?
How can we really 'count it all joy'?
More Than Words
"... but words can never hurt me"?
The Armour of God
What tools does God give us to protect us from the Enemy?
The Heart of the Gospel
The Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near to you, therefore...
Do you really want to follow him?
How should I prepare to give a sermon?
The gift of healing comes from the Holy Spirit, but how does it work?
The People of God
What does it mean when we say that the Bible is the Word of God?
Jesus Part 2: The Deity of Christ
How can Jesus be God and Man at the same time?
Jesus Part 1: Who Do You Say I Am?
Who is Jesus, and why does He matter?
How do we resist?
What is holiness and how do we try to achieve it?
The Art of Spiritual Warfare
We're in a constant battle, so how do we try and prepare to fight?
Forgiveness Part Two: Forgiving Others
What is forgiveness and why do we need to forgive others?
Forgiveness Part One: Forgiven by God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?
Prayer Part Two: Receiving From God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?
Prayer Part One: The Lords Prayer
We look in detail at the Lords Prayer
It's one of the spiritual gifts, but what exactly is it, how does it happen?
Becoming a Christian
What is a Christian, how do you become one?
Basics of Christianity
Here we delve into the Nicene Creed