An edited spin-off of this article was featured at The Gospel Coalition, entitled, “Embrace a Countercultural Vision of Sex.”
Knowing Jesus really does change everything. Not only does it mean that I know that I have a relationship with God, that my sins are forgiven, and that I will be in Heaven forever after I die–but knowing Jesus changes all of life now.
Knowing Jesus changes how I think about work, finances, friendship, parenting, marriage, and yes–also sex. You might even be able to say, “especially sex.”
For example, knowing Jesus changes how I think about work being for God’s glory, but some of the biblical principles that change how I work are also principles that are often still looked upon highly in society–working hard, for example, or providing for my family.
But the ways that knowing Jesus changes how I think about sex are not something that our culture usually agrees with–or even comes close to understanding. I think as believers, we have to be ok with that to a certain degree. After all, without knowing Jesus we would surely think about sex very differently than we do. Here are three ways that knowing Jesus radically changes how you and I think about sex.
“God knew what he was doing when he created sex and the parameters that would ultimately bring us joy and human flourishing.”
- Knowing Jesus shows me that sex is for only within biblical marriage.
When I was in High School and heard the “locker room talk” from other guys around me, it was obvious that there was a huge difference in the way that the world generally thought about sex, and the way that followers of Jesus are called to think about sex. But I had no idea then the complexities that the current “sexual revolution” was bringing to the way that people would think about sex just two decades later. In my first week of Spanish class, I learned words like “food” and “homework.” In my son’s first week of Spanish class, he learned the word “bisexual” (yes, it is spelled the same in Spanish and English). Yet all societal changes aside, whether in the 90s or 2020s or the 60s or the time of the Roman Empire, knowing Jesus shows me that sex is for only within biblical marriage.
No matter how much our cultural tides may come and go, God’s design for sex continues to be obeyed only within the committed monogamous covenant relationship of marriage between a man and a woman.
The Apostle Paul saw this understanding of sex as so basic to knowing Jesus, he wrote an entire paragraph about it to the young church in Thessalonica: “…For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” (1 Thessalonians 4:2-8)
God knew what he was doing when he created sex and the parameters that would ultimately bring us joy and human flourishing. He knew that sex is powerful like fire, and that it can bring great destruction like when a house burns down, or great warmth and joy like when a fire stays within a fireplace on a snowy night.
It takes faith to really believe this today. But it doesn’t take a lot of analysis of the consequences of sexual sin to realize that the Creator knew exactly what he was doing when he loved us enough to give us the gift of sex, and loved us enough to give us the parameters for sex.
- Knowing Jesus shows me that my sexuality is a power to be used for my spouse’s benefit.
Everybody knows that sex is powerful. Advertisers leverage this. Abusers take advantage of this. All sorts of people experiment with this. Christians, however, in obedience to God’s commands, use this power to benefit their spouse (1 Corinthians 7:1-5).
Listen to the attitude that God says we are to have in all situations, including in the bedroom: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to this interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant.” (Philippians 2:3-7a)
Applying Philippians 2 to your physical intimacy as a couple, would your spouse say:
a) That you in bed, in humility count your spouse as more significant than yourself?
b) That you in bed look not only to your own interests, but also to your spouse’s interests?
c) That you in bed are a servant?
Knowing Jesus means that Christians are called to a radically different sexual ethic than what the world constantly proclaims. Rather than using sex to take, we are to use sex to give. It is a power that God has entrusted to each husband or wife to use for the benefit of his or her spouse.
This desire to please and serve the other through the gift of sex is one of a myriad of ways to apply Paul’s instructions to husbands to “love their wives as their own bodies.” (Ephesians 5:28) In other words, a married man and woman are to pursue their “one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31) union so much that they are thinking of ways they may leverage their sexuality to please their spouse.
This means they will not be afraid to talk about sex with each other in a time, place, and manner that will help each other to become better lovers. One way this can be done is by asking, “What is something I could do for you in bed that would be a blessing to you?” Then listen, don’t assume. You may not often think of talking about sex with your spouse and then learning and growing through that as a way to glorify God, but it is.
During sex, there is a powerful hormone called oxytocin that is released. Studies have shown that oxytocin is the “bonding chemical.” This is part of God’s good design.
But as potent and important as this is, there is a spiritual bonding component of sex that goes even deeper. Right after God brought Eve to Adam, the Holy Spirit explains, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) Yes, being one flesh is about more than sex, but it is not less than sex. In the very next verse we read, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:25)
God designed sex partly to bond you together–even chemically and spiritually–with your spouse in a deeper way than any other human relationship.
You have a stewardship in your sexual relationship with your spouse. You probably don’t often think of standing before God and giving an account for looking out for the interests of your spouse in bed. But God says it matters, and that this kind of attitude and these kinds of actions glorify him (1 Corinthians 7:3).
- Knowing Jesus shows me that my sexuality is to be enjoyed as a good gift from a good God.
I am so glad God created a world in which there is sex.
And I am so glad that God created me to enjoy sex with my wife, with God’s blessing and God’s joy.
Too often, we as Christians are uncomfortable saying things like this. But God is not uncomfortable saying these things. In the section of the Bible that we call wisdom literature, God says this: “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” (Proverbs 5:18-20)
When God talks about sex within marriage, he doesn’t blush–he blesses.
Here is his blessing over the marriage bed: “Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!” (Song of Solomon 5:1b)
Imagine if you invented something so fantastic that you knew it would greatly encourage and bless the lives of those who used it according to your instructions. But because some people used it wrongly, even those who followed your directions and enjoyed it immensely refused to talk about it.
God invented something that would bond people who are in a covenant together, which also could bring new life into the world, all while giving you pleasure you can hardly imagine exists. We dishonor him when we are afraid to talk about enjoying this invention, or afraid to enjoy it at all. All of the glory for sex belongs to God! So give him glory for the gift of sex, with your spouse.
There is a spiritual aspect of sex that we too often ignore, at our own peril, because it amplifies our enjoyment of God’s good “wedding gift,” a gift that is intended by the Giver to keep on giving. The concept that is often used in the Bible to explain our covenant relationship with Christ is “union.” The only human relationship that was specifically designed to point to this union with Christ is the marriage relationship (Ephesians 5:28-32). And the marriage covenant celebration of sex not only points a husband and wife to their one-flesh union, but for the one who has eyes to see it, it also points to the union we enjoy with Christ. Even the bliss we can experience in sex points ahead to the bliss of the marriage supper of the Lamb.
For some of you reading this, you want to honor God with your sexuality. But you wonder if your past, or the current state of your marriage, disqualifies you from ever enjoying sex as a good gift from a good God. As I once heard Sam Allberry say, “Messes are Jesus’s specialty. You can’t over-mess him.” As Paul the Apostle said, “…but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…” (Romans 5:20b)
That “pit” your marriage is in right now? Jesus’s power and transforming love will meet you and your spouse right there if you look for him. His arm is not short to save–your soul, or your marriage. He makes all things new. And that includes your sex life.