Category: Genesis (Page 2 of 7)

Sex Needs Marriage


“Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, ‘The two will become one flesh.’… Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.” ~1 Corinthians 6:16-20

The apostle Paul forbids Christians from having sex with a prostitute. But the reason he gives is fascinating.

The “one flesh” in Genesis 2 that Paul uses here and in Ephesians 5 means more to him than just the physical union. If he were just talking about body parts, he’d be saying, “He who unites himself with a prostitute unites himself with a prostitute.” Duh! 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 all levels of their lives. Don’t unite with someone physically unless you’re willing to unite with that person emotionally, personally, socially, economically, and legally. Paul is crying out about the abomination of physical oneness without all the other kinds of oneness that God designed to go with it.

Tim Keller says you could paraphrase Paul’s statement like this: “Don’t you know that the purpose of sex is always one flesh — to become united to another person in every area of life? Is that what you’re seeking with the prostitute? Of course not! So don’t have sex with her!”

Now, our culture says just the opposite of what Scripture says and what God’s Church has always taught and practiced. Our world finds the idea of abstinence from sex until marriage as ludicrous. Our culture can’t even comprehend the idea. Yet this is the unquestioned and uniform teaching of all the Christian churches for all time — Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic. Right down the line. Forever. Not because the Bible has a low view of sex, but because it has such a lofty one. Sex has a divine purpose inside marriage. But when sex is separated from marriage, it can be devastatingly dangerous.

Sex makes you feel deeply connected to the other person even if you use it wrongly. That’s the way God designed it. And it works. Even if you experience it outside marriage. Sex makes you feel deeply and inseparably connected to that other person, even if you don’t want to be. As you’re physically joined, you find yourself feeling marriage-like connections even if you’re not married. You feel like the other person is obligated to you, even though that person doesn’t have the obligation to even call you the next day. So it’s messed up. And it leads to jealousy and hurt feelings and obsessiveness if two people are having sex and they’re not married. Sex makes it really hard to break up with somebody even when you and all your friends and family know you should break up. You feel so deeply connected. You feel a “forever” because that’s how it’s designed. If it’s separated from marriage, though, sex can trap you in a horrible relationship.

If you’re not married, the instruction from Scripture and the expectation of your church — and this won’t surprise anybody — is that you adopt the Christian ethic and practice chastity: No sex if it’s separated from marriage. Now, that will be very difficult, especially in a culture that will give you no support for your conviction. So, you’ll need the Christian community. You’ll need your church to act as a people and a place of open and supportive and loving family. You’ll also need the love and grace of Christ and the boldness and power of the Holy Spirit. And you should be able to find that in your church family, too.



Sex Is From God

“A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh.” ~Genesis 2:24

The first explicit mention of sex in the Scriptures is in the second chapter of Genesis. This is the same line Paul quotes in Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 6 when he’s talking about marriage. Man and woman, husband and wife, are to be united to become one flesh.

You know, when we read this, it looks like it’s only talking about a physical, sexual union between two bodies. But it actually means a whole lot more. When Genesis 6:12 says all flesh had corrupted their ways, it doesn’t just mean bodies. It means all people. When Joel 2:28 says God will pour out his Spirit on all flesh, it means people, not just bodies. It’s like if I said I was going to “count noses” in the worship center on Sunday or do a “head count.” I’d say, “I’ve got 985!” (preacher count) and you would know I’m not talking 985 noses or 985 heads; I’m telling you how many people are in the room (more like 700). It’s very common to use a part of a thing to represent the whole thing.

So marriage is leaving your father and mother and uniting with another so profoundly that the man and woman actually become one new single person. We’ve talked about the word “united,” or “cleave” in the older translations. It means to make a covenant or a binding contract. Every aspect of the two lives are sworn together. The man and woman merge into a single, legal, social, economic, emotional, physical, spiritual unit. They give up a lot of their rights and their independence. They give themselves completely to one another.

To call the marriage “one flesh” means that sex is a sign of that personal and legal union and the means to accomplish it. It’s the God-created way to help you give your entire self to your spouse. Sex is God’s ordained way for two people to say to each other, “I belong completely and permanently and exclusively to you.”

Now, we’re not done with this. Today’s post just really sets us up for tomorrow and Thursday.



Forgiveness Honors God

SinfulWomanWashingFeetWhen Jesus tells us to forgive, one of the main reasons he gives is because this is what God is like. In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord commands, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:45).

Real forgiveness honors God.

All people, all men and women, are created by God and made in the image of God. Every single person on this planet is a being of supreme value to God. That’s why in Genesis 9, God says anybody who takes the life of a human being is going to be held accountable. Even when an animal kills a human, God says he’s going to hold that animal accountable. Why? “For in the image of God has God made mankind” (Genesis 9:6). Every human life is sacred. Every human being has dignity.

Because all people bear the image of God, because all men and women are so valuable to God, we are not only forbidden to kill people, we are forbidden to curse people or talk bad about people. Any people. Scripture tells us we cannot “curse men and women who have been made in God’s likeness” (James 3:9). All human beings have this. Not just the “good” human beings — all human beings. Regardless of their track record, regardless of their character, God made them and God loves them. So we do, too.

Timothy Keller illustrates this by imagining a foreigner who visits Mount Vernon in Virginia. He doesn’t know anything about American history, he’s never been here before, and he’s surprised that Mount Vernon is a national monument. He might be confused. There are lots of old Virginia plantation houses that are bigger and fancier and more beautiful than Mount Vernon. Lots of those houses have more architectural merit than Mount Vernon. What makes Mount Vernon so worthy of all this honor and respect?

You’d say to this foreigner, this is George Washington’s house. George Washington is the father of this country. And that would explain it. You wouldn’t have to say anything else. The merits and quality of the house itself are irrelevant. Because we treasure the owner, we honor his house. Because it was so precious to him and we revere him, it’s precious to us and we take care of it. So we treasure every single human being on earth as a way of showing respect for their maker and owner.

Forgiveness also honors God because it’s an act of faith in God. By forgiving someone, I’m trusting that God is better at justice than I am. By forgiving, I give up my rights to seek fairness and to get even; I leave it all for God to work out. He will. I trust that he will. So I forgive.



Stuff in the Middle

LamentB&WI don’t know where you are today. Maybe today you’ve already spent a few minutes alone in a chair by the window thinking, “I can’t believe this is my life.” Maybe last night you sat at your kitchen table and thought, “I can’t believe this is where I am.” Maybe you’ve been in a mess for the past couple of weeks. Or maybe you’ve been in a bad place for many years. Maybe sermons about transformed lives and blog posts about living by the Spirit discourage you. They might even depress you.

My life proclaiming the Kingdom of God? My life being a declaration of the lordship of Jesus? That’s not my life. Not today, not ever. My life is too messed up. I’m too far gone.

We all think we’re supposed to have an undefeated season. “This was going to be my year. This year everything was going to get worked out. This was going to be a great year. I was going to get everything on track and this was going to be a wonderful year. My family is going to be undefeated this year. My marriage. My career. My relationship with God. This is the year!”

And it’s not.

I’m sorry.

I want you to think about Judah in the book of Genesis. He’s the son of Jacob. His name means “praise God.” And he had sex with his daughter-in-law. He didn’t mean to, he said. He thought she was a prostitute. He had sex with his daughter-in-law, he left behind his keys and his wallet, and he got busted. It was a huge scandal.

Think about King David. The glorious king of God’s united nation. Personally chosen by God. David intentionally blows up seven of the ten commandments in one terrible weekend.

Think about Peter. The very first apostle chosen by Jesus. He publicly, loudly, and with great religious curses betrayed our Lord three times the night before the crucifixion. Told everybody he’d never met Jesus.

Can you imagine Peter standing in the room while the people were putting the Bible together? Can you see Peter looking over their shoulders? “Hey, can y’all just go from me throwing my nets down and leaving everything to follow Jesus to those letters I wrote at the end? Can you just cut out all that stuff in the middle?”

Can you imagine David in that same room? “Could y’all just skip from me killing Goliath to the geneaology of Jesus in Matthew? Would you please leave out all that stuff in the middle?”

Judah also is looking over the shoulders of the people putting together the Bible. “Um… can you go from my birth in Genesis 29 to those last words in Revelation that say the Messiah is the Lion of Judah? Could you delete all that stuff in the middle?”

That’s not filler stuff there in the middle. The stuff in the middle is there for a reason. To show us. To teach us.

Maybe you’re thinking, “I can’t believe this is my life.” Hey, let me tell you, your life’s not over! If you’re reading this right now (and you are!), the last lines of your life have not yet been written.

By the power of his Spirit, our Lord Jesus is standing right now between what is and what can be. He stands between what can be and what it can mean for generations of people you’ve never met. Jesus also stands right now today between what is and what won’t be, too.

Your life can be a powerful testimony to the reality of the lordship of Jesus and the eternal Kingdom of God. I don’t care where you are right now or what’s going on, your life can be a proclamation. Not by your power. But by the power of the Spirit and the grace of our God through Jesus Christ.





“All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” ~Genesis 12:3

God calls his people and saves them and changes them in order to bless the whole world. He pulls them out of Egypt, he rescues them from slavery, and he gathers them to his presence on the mountain to commission them for his work on behalf of all the earth.

“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” ~Exodus 19:4-6

Israel belongs to God. And, yes, they are called out to be separate from the world. But they are not separate in that they live in isolation from the other nations. As holy and priestly, Israel’s purpose is to save and bless the entire world in a partnership with God. The covenant is international in scope. It’s global. Israel is saved, not just for Israel’s sake, but so God can work through them to save all of humanity.

When God’s people break the covenant, when they live their lives in ways that are not holy, yes, it has serious implications for their relationship with God. But, much bigger than that, it thwarts the salvation plans of heaven for everybody else. In the exile, when Israel felt the full weight of the consequences of her disobedience, the focus in Scripture is on how it’s impacting the salvation of the rest of the world.

“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob  and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” ~Isaiah 49:6

Even in the darkest period of Israel’s history, when her own release from captivity was the most pressing concern, God reminds his people of the bigger picture. He reminds them that it’s not just about them. Why are they going to be released? Why are they going to be saved? For the sake of others, not themselves. To use God’s blessings to bring salvation to the rest of the world.

We are covenant partners with the God of Heaven and Earth.

Somehow, though, we have encouraged the question, “What can God do for me?” or “What can the Church do for me?” Somehow, we’ve nurtured a culture that’s concerned with, “What can I get out of believing in God? or “What can I get out of going to Church?” Somehow, we’ve fostered an attitude that being a Christian means not much more than going to church to ask God for what we need and to thank him for what he’s given us. And that’s all. No wonder strong, smart, healthy people are completely bored out of their minds with church! And Christianity!

We are not just creatures of God. We are creatures uniquely made in God’s image, equipped by God and empowered by God as God’s partners in and for the world. We are partners whom God has invited and commanded to join his business of preserving and caring for the world. Of doing justice and showing compassion in human society. Sharing the suffering of those who suffer and freeing those who are enslaved by their own sins and oppressed by the sins of others.

Being in covenant with God is not a passive thing. It’s not just hanging around the church building waiting for Jesus to come back. It’s not like just sitting in the dark, eating your popcorn and talking to your friend, while you wait for the movie to start. We’re in the movie! We’re in the play! By virtue of the covenant, we’ve all been given and have all accepted the holy responsibility to advance the salvation cause of our God.





“I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.” ~Genesis 17:7

We’re going to be together. We’re going to live together, just like in the garden in the very beginning. God says we’re going to occupy the same places together just like in Act One. The covenant is about God being visibly, physically present with his people.

When he delivers them from Egypt, God leads them from a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Scripture tells us neither pillar “left its place in front of the people.”

And then God brings his people to a mountain in the middle of the desert and he tells them the details of the covenant. God is right there, physically and visibly on the mountain. There’s smoke and fire, thunder and lightning. The people are trembling with fear.

“They offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the LORD. Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, ‘We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.’

Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.’

Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.” ~Exodus 24:5-11

God uses the blood of the covenant, the blood of the sacrifice, to cleanse his people so they can sit down together and share a meal. They saw God and they ate and drank. The blood made them righteous. Because of the blood, God considered them holy, so they could be right there in his face-to-face presence. Eating together! With God! It’s remarkable! But that kind of proximity, that kind of physical relationship and presence, is what God and the humans had in the garden in Act One. And that’s what God is working to restore with his covenant.

God longs to physically live with his people. So, next, he tells them to build him a tent.

“Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the LORD their God who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them.” ~Exodus 29:45-46

“I will put my dwelling place among you… I will walk among you and be your God and you will be my people.” ~Leviticus 26:11-12

This is the promise, this is the language through the rest of the Old Testament. I will live with you; you will be my people and I will be your God. At the tabernacle. At the temple. Five times in Ezekiel. Five times in Jeremiah. Three times in Zechariah. God gives us his covenant so we can live together with him in his presence.



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