Category: Marriage (Page 1 of 6)

Marital Sex Practices the Cross

Sex in our marriages is difficult. Trying to keep it in bounds, trying to keep it kindled — it’s not as easy as we all thought when we first got married.

Things change when you have kids. If you’re both working. If you both get over-committed. You can go full days without hardly seeing one another. Then you’re at work in the middle of the morning and you get a text from your wife: “I’m not wearing any underwear…because you forgot to put it in the dryer!”

Things change. And we’re all so stinkin’ busy. The TV and streaming and cell phones and kids and schedules and work and vacations all get in the way of a God-proclaiming, Christ-forming, sexual relationship in your marriage. We’ve got a lot working against us.

The biggest problem, though, is that we all bring our baggage into the bedroom. Our individual sexual scripts get shaped by a trillion different influences and experiences, many of which we have no control over. When we get married, we don’t just join together our bodies and body parts, we join all the baggage. Sometimes one or both of the spouses are dealing with guilt or shame because of sexual sin or some past trauma that’s not even their fault. That’s when the marriage bed can be like the cross. That’s where a couple finds love and understanding, grace and forgiveness and acceptance.

If your marriage has slipped into a place where the sex is not regular, it’s not frequent, maybe it’s not happening at all, don’t just shrug your shoulders and yawn about it. That’s a full-blown attack on your marriage by Satan himself! He doesn’t want you to experience what God wants you to experience. The devil is trying to separate and keep apart what God has joined together. And he’ll use every kind of distraction and circumstance and attitude to do it. Satan’s been doing this since the very beginning when he tried to drive Adam and Eve apart by fostering shame and guilt and mistrust. That’s his game. He exploits our sin and uses it against us in our marriages.

All of us have committed sexual sin, whether in heart or in deed. We’re all guilty on some level. And Satan wants to use that against you and your spouse. Maybe it was a long time ago, but you still feel trapped in shame and guilt and you feel distant from your spouse because of it. And distant from God.

No! Look at the cross! All of us are forgiven at the cross! All of us have sinned and all of us are still susceptible to sin, but our Lord Jesus has taken care of that at the cross.

Maybe if there were such a thing as pure people and impure people, we could divide the world into the two groups and marry accordingly. But that’s not the case. We all stand together under the same mercy and grace of the cross.

Jesus was a virgin. His bride, the Church, was decidedly not. He loved us anyway. He died for us. He forgave us and brought us into righteous relationship with our God. And one of the best ways to communicate that unconditional love and acceptance and belonging and grace to your husband or wife is to keep your sex life going together.



Marital Sex Promotes Christ-likeness

I took a break from the posts on sex inside our marriages to write about our “4 Midland” plans. Now, just a couple more posts here related to our GCR sermon from November 5. If you’ve missed something in this thread, scroll down and follow the alliteration. 

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” ~Ephesians 5:21

Frequent and regular sex shapes both the husband and the wife more into the image of Jesus. You might say it’s a spiritual discipline. God shows us in our marriages that we do not belong to ourselves, but we pour ourselves out in service to others. The Christian life is concerned with genuine living sacrifice, not selfish transactions. Jesus says if you want to gain your life, you have to really lay it down. And you do that in a marriage. Like Christ and his Church, the one-flesh union is not forged through demands for one to meet the other’s needs, but through a sense of common purpose, common mission, together.

Scripture tells us to delight in sexual union with our spouses, not because sex is an appetite that must be filled, but because it reminds us to love and serve the other. It makes us the kind of people who stand by our promises and stand by each other. It teaches us that love is not a way to get what I need, but a way to pour myself our for somebody else.

We don’t love each other because we find each other sexually attractive; it’s the other way around. We grow in our sexual attraction because we share a growing love. When Scripture demands that the sexual rights of both spouses be maintained, it’s not talking about a legal thing, like a contract. It’s talking about the love and attention two people should give each other who’ve been brought together in Christ.

This is the way Christ loves the Church. So we mutually submit to one another out of reverence to him. Imitating him. Honoring him. Each partner in the marriage has to be most concerned not with getting sexual pleasure, but with giving it.

In the Woody Allen movie, “Annie Hall,” the title character’s therapist asks her how often she and her husband Alvie are having sex. She says, “Constantly! All the time! Like three times a week!” Later in the movie, the same therapist asks Alvie the same question. He says, “Almost never! Like three times a week!”

Okay. It takes two to tango. You have to figure that stuff out. And it takes all the mutual loving and submitting and sacrificing and serving the Bible describes to make it happen. It’s about constant kindness and consistent learning and communicating. It’s about daily attention and respect. It’s not about you. It’s paying attention to something bigger than both of you.



Marital Sex Prioritizes One-ness

The title of this post shines a bright light on my misguided leanings toward using alliteration in the main points of my sermons. It’s a preacher cliche, I know, but I’ve got it bad. Looking at it in print like this, “prioritizes” feels like a stretch. It probably was.

This is an important post today. This was the second most important part of Sunday’s sermon. We need to pay careful attention to this point about sex in our marriages because our culture, and in many ways our own Christian culture, doesn’t see this. Sex is where a married couple experiences and expresses their God-ordained unity and equality. Our culture — again, even our Christian culture — can put blinders on us so that we see this truth throughout the entire Bible, but we look right past it.

“The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command.” ~1 Corinthians 7:3-6

The husband has ownership of his wife’s body. Her body belongs to him. Well, yeah. Duh. Everybody knows the husband is the head of his wife.

No! The wife also has the exact same ownership of her husband’s body. His body belongs to her. The husband owes his wife sex. And the wife owes her husband sex. You see what Paul is doing here. The marriage partners are not in a hierarchical relationship where one is over the other. There is no flow chart or chain of command in a marriage. Marriage is a relationship of mutual and equal unity and submission with each partner having equal authority over the other.

Paul does this throughout the whole chapter.

In 7:10-11, he says a wife cannot divorce her husband and the husband cannot divorce his wife. In 7:12-16, Paul says a Christian man who is married to an unbeliever must stay married to her and a Christian woman married to an unbeliever must remain married to him. In 7:32-34, he lists the pros and cons of marriage for a man and then he lists the exact same pros and cons for a woman. Paul is bending over backwards to treat husbands and wives totally and unmistakably equal. In a Christian marriage, the wife has authority over her husband. She does. She owns his body and he cannot deny her his marital obligation. In the exact same way, the husband owns the wife’s body and she cannot deny him.

That’s provocative, huh? What does this mean, that the husband and wife are completely equal?

One flesh. Unity. This is the one-ness.

The first explicit mention of sex in the Bible is in Genesis 2. It’s the same line Paul quotes in Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 6.

“The Lord God made a woman from the side of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” ~Genesis 2:22-24

When we read this, we think it’s only talking about a physical, sexual union between two bodies and two sets of body parts. But it means so much more than that. Marriage is leaving your parents and uniting with another so profoundly that the husband and wife actually become one new single person. Every aspect of the two lives are sewn together. The man and woman merge into a single, legal, social, economic, emotional, physical, spiritual unit. They give up their rights and independence. They give themselves completely to one another. And one of the most important ways that’s experienced and expressed is sexually.

Sex is the God-created way to give your entire self to your spouse. Sex is God’s way for a man and a woman to say to each other, “I belong completely and exclusively and permanently to you.” That’s why sex outside of marriage is illegitimate and opposed to the will of God. It’s not just body parts; it’s not just a casual, physical act.

If Paul were only talking about body parts, he’d say, “The one who unites himself with a prostitute unites himself with a prostitute.” No. He says don’t unite yourself with a prostitute because, remember, “the two will become one flesh.” One person. The man and woman who have sex are united at every level of their lives. Don’t unite with someone sexually unless you’re willing to unite with that person emotionally, personally, socially, economically, legally, and permanently.

Tim Keller said you could paraphrase the 1 Corinthians 6 passage like this: “Don’t you know the purpose of sex is always one flesh? To become united to another person in every area of your life. Is that what you’re seeking with the prostitute? Of course not! So don’t have sex with her!”

The priority is one-ness. The Bible repeatedly talks about the joy of the sexual union that’s meant to drive husbands and wives toward each other. The Old Testament word is “knowing” each other, which is one of the main purposes for marital sex. If all goes well, your honeymoon should be the worst sex of your life. By God’s design, intimacy grows the more you know each other. The more you learn, the closer you get, and the better it gets. Scripture tells married couples to delight in sexual union because it connects you.

That’s why the Bible does not allow married couples to abstain from sex. He calls on both the husbands and wives to fulfill their marital duty or, literally, the original Greek is more like give what is owed. Do not deprive or defraud, don’t cheat your spouse of what is rightfully hers or his. It’s something each partner owes to the other. So it should never be used as a bribe or a reward for good behavior or something you withhold as a threat or punishment. We joke about making somebody sleep on the couch or we say so-and-so is in the doghouse. No! That’s not right! Now, you don’t insist on sex on demand. Each spouse must be sensitive to the emotional and physical state of the other. But one partner can’t consistently try to get out of it.

The only exception Paul allows — he says this is a concession, he doesn’t like it — is if both spouses agree together to abstain from sex for a limited time for the sake of an unusually concentrated period of communion with the Lord. Maybe a retreat, maybe fasting, maybe concentrated prayer — something big and unusual. But then they should come right back together. It’s a concession, he says, not a command. The Bible does not allow marriage without sex, not even if both spouses want it. Because marriage without sex is not marriage. It’s something, but it’s not marriage.

Couples who have settled into a sexless marriage, in which they’re just living together like roommates, have given up on God’s plan for strengthening their union. Your sex life is, in a lot of ways, of course, your business. But your sex life is for the purpose of making your marriage stronger, making your love deeper, and making your commitments richer. That means your children are dependent on your sex life. Trust me, they don’t want to hear about it. But they’re depending on it. Your church is also dependent upon your sex life, although we don’t want to hear about it, either.


At the halfway point of the season, the Cowboys are 5-3 and do not have a win against a team with a winning record. They lost to the 1-7 Cardinals! How good can they be?!?

The easiest part of their schedule is coming up now with games against the Giants, Carolina, Washington, and Seattle. After that, it’s Philly, Buffalo, Miami, Detroit, and Washington. If Dallas has any chance at all of catching the Eagles in the NFC East, don’t they have to sweep these next four?



Marital Sex Proclaims the Gospel

“He who unites himself with the Lord unites with him in spirit.” ~1 Corinthians 6:17

How could we possibly understand what it means for two to become one? For two separate people to be completely united together? How could we ever comprehend what Jesus means when he says he is united with us? And that all of us will be one just like the Father is in Christ and Christ is in his Father and that he is in us? How could we ever understand that?

Well, our God has come up with this thing that involves a covenant and promises and vows and an ongoing unifying experience between the two in the covenant that’s mind-blowing.

Sex is what unites together two promise-making people into a life-giving covenant union before God and the whole world.

When the prophet Malachi talks about marriage, he says, “Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit, they are his” (2:15). Sex outside the marriage vows distorts the Gospel and proclaims a false God. An idol. That’s why the Scriptures everywhere use the words adultery and idolatry as synonyms. It’s the same thing. A false Gospel. A different God.

Paul says the one who joins himself to a prostitute joins Christ to that prostitute because sex is a joining together of both bodies and spirits. Sex outside of the marriage vows and commitments is a sin. It’s a sin against your own body. And it’s not like smoking cigarettes or eating too many cheese fries where you’re hurting only yourself. For Christians, your body is not your own. It’s a temple of God’s Spirit. Sex without marriage or outside your marriage desecrates God’s temple, something set apart by God to declare God’s love and faithfulness. Something holy is being used for something unholy, something that is contrary to the Gospel itself.

C.S. Lewis said sex without marriage is like tasting food without swallowing it or digesting it. It’s empty and hollow. It’s shallow and dead. And ultimately defeats the purpose. Sex in our marriages proclaims the unity we share with God in Christ by his covenant of faithfulness and love.


I was supposed to be in Dallas today with my whole family for the Aerosmith farewell concert at American Airlines Center. It’s been postponed indefinitely because of Steven Tyler’s fractured larynx, suffered in early September on the first leg of the tour. The tour has been postponed until next year — no new dates are set yet — while Tyler receives the “best medical care in the world.” The apology from the band’s front man on the Aerosmith website says we all need to be patient.

I’m not sure if it helps or adds to my anxiety, but here’s an old video of Dream On.

The 2:30 mark makes it obvious as to how Tyler might have fractured his larynx.



Marital Sex Prevents Temptation

A recent Dartmouth study found that having sex at least once a week gives you the same happiness boost as receiving a $50,000 raise at work. So, if you and your spouse feel like you’re not making enough money, I’ve got at least one suggestion.

That’s not a bad reason for doing whatever is necessary to make sure you and your spouse are enjoying regular and frequent sex together. But we find more and better reasons in the Scriptures. We explored a lot of what I’m posting this week in our sermon yesterday at GCR. I’m writing in this space in order to elaborate a bit where time restricted me on Sunday.

Today’s reason for more regular and frequent sex within your marriage is that it helps prevent temptation.

“Since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband… Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” ~1 Corinthians 7:2-5

This is probably the most obvious reason. A husband and wife should be having sex often enough so that neither of them is frustrated or tempted. You’re trying to avoid the conditions that might allow the devil to get a foothold. We’re not just battling the pull of biology here, we’re fighting against Satan’s attacks on our marriages. And ongoing marital sexuality is a key way to fight. One way for a husband and wife to fight the devil is to have more sex.

Don’t think you and your spouse are not vulnerable to that kind of temptation or that neither of you is susceptible to committing adultery. It happens to godly people all the time! A husband and wife need to be honest about those temptations  and fight them together. There should be an openness to confess to your spouse when you are tempted. You notice you’re mentally drifting or you’re noticing somebody else or you’re becoming emotionally connected to somebody else. The other spouse shouldn’t be shocked that his or her partner is being tempted. Every single marriage gets tested! All of them!

If your marriage is a declaration of the Gospel, if your marriage proclaims the love and faithfulness of God to the world, why would you expect the devil to leave it alone? Confessing it to each other and talking openly about it breaks the power of the secret drama where adultery thrives. Don’t be offended at your spouse’s temptation. That’s a sign of pride. It’s also a sign of pride if you say you’ve never been tempted.

All the studies are consistently showing that married couples are engaging in sex together on average only about two to three times per month. Given the countless opportunities in our world today to satisfy our desires illicitly, the Bible’s instructions to guard against temptation still seem appropriate. Paul’s words are, “Since there is so much immorality.” Well, there still is.

That’s a pretty good reason for regular and frequent sex in your marriage. There are more and better reasons to explore today and through the rest of the week.


Philadelphia Eagles hang on to beat Dallas 28-23 in thriller

The Cowboys had a 1st down at the Eagles six yard line with 27 seconds to play. The next five plays went like this:

False Start (11 yard line)
Sack (22 yard line)
Incomplete Pass
Delay of Game (27 yard line)
Completion Short of the Goal Line as Time Expired

The Cowboys were inside the Eagles 30 yard line four times in the 4th quarter, three separate times inside the 10 yard line, and they came away with a total of six points. Dallas could have kicked a field goal there at the end to win the game, but McCarthy went for it on 4th and goal on the previous possession instead of taking the points, putting the Cowboys down five points at the end instead of two. McCarthy elected a two-point try on an earlier touchdown instead of taking the PAT, which means Dallas could have kicked a field goal at the end to tie. Yes, it was a close loss to the division-leading Iggles. But only because McCarthy is the Cowboys head coach.

Dallas is 0-4 in their last four trips to San Francisco and Philly. And about as far away from being a contender as California is from Pennsylvania.




Teaching on Sex

We’re in the middle of a sermon series at GCR we’re calling “Family Matters.” We’re trying to understand why family is so important to us AND why family can never be ultimate for us. We want to see the family clearly BUT we need to see beyond the family. We’re trying to look at and engage our family issues through the love of God and the cross of Christ. We want to crucify our family values.

And tomorrow we’re talking about sex.

We can’t speak for six weeks on family matters without addressing sex. We’re not going to ignore it. The culture we live in sees sex totally differently from the way the Bible sees it, from the way the Church understands it and practices it. And the culture is loud. And powerful. The world has so distorted sexuality that we don’t know what it’s for anymore and how it’s practiced. So we need to talk about it.

I’m going to post most of tomorrow’s sermon in this space over the next few days. The main reason I’m planning to repeat myself here is that there is much to say that I don’t have time for in tomorrow’s sermon. The  following few paragraphs here were originally included in my introduction to our sermon tomorrow, but I’ve had to cut it for time. I hope this communicates well and sets us up for a week’s worth of sex education here. And I hope I haven’t made a huge mistake by cutting this out of tomorrow’s sermon.

Most sermons about sex and most youth group sessions about sex seem to center around the idea that sex is wonderfully awesome, but it needs to wait until marriage. Sex is incredible, but you can’t enjoy it until you get married. And while all those sermons and youth classes are made with good intentions and while I very much agree with what they say, it can give the impression that sex and marriage are two separate things.

Sometimes we act like marriage is the house and sex is the swimming pool. Sex is the add-on, the extra bonus, that doesn’t have anything to do with the structural integrity of the house itself, the marriage. Two separate things. We’ve got the marriage on one hand and we pay attention to the marriage. The marriage is where we live and it’s really important. And when you sign the contract to buy the house, you open up the back door and, “Wow! Look at that pool!” And you dive in immediately. You put on sunscreen and you grab a floatie and you’re out there for twelve hours. It’s a fringe benefit when you purchase the house. It’s a really nice extra.

Or maybe it’s just the opposite. Maybe sex is the house and the marriage is the add-on. Sex is the main dwelling. I’ve got to get married so I can have the sex. Sex is the main house — the foundation, the walls, the floors, the roof, everything. And the marriage relationship is the pool out back. It’s nice. I’m glad we’ve got it. Two separate things.

That kind of thinking — seeing sex and marriage as two separate things — has led to a whole let of sex without marriage and a whole lot of marriages without sex. Both of those situations are a distortion of God’s holy will. And both situations are doing serious damage to our marriages and our families and God’s Church.

I like the house/pool illustration and I hate that I’ve cut it out of tomorrow’s sermon. Sex and marriage are two sides of the same coin. Neither of them should happen independently of the other. It’s like eating salsa without chips or watching a concert on TV with the sound turned off. God not create either marriage or sex to exist without the other.

The Bible does talk a lot about sexual immorality, but not because sex is bad. The Bible has a very high view of sex. God knows how sex works. He invented  it. He created sex and gave it to husbands and wives in the very beginning for specific purposes. The sermon is not, “Don’t have sex.” It’s “If you’re married have sex; and if you’re having sex in your marriage, have more.”

We’ve made promises that GCR is going to be a safe place to have hard conversations. We’ll practice what we promise tomorrow.



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