Thursday, March 25, 2010

Spirit Led Sexuality

I was at Walmart a few nights ago and I decided to go back to the magazine section to see if there was an issue of Backpacker Magazine available.  As I scanned the shelves in a vain attempt to find the magazine I was looking for I was assaulted by sex.  Sex dominated the magazine covers from the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and other men's magazines to the promises made of the covers of the women’s magazines.  It would not be an exaggeration to say the sex occupies a central place in our culture, and thus in our lives.

Sex is everywhere and it is so very easy to go along with the culture and not give this great blessing of God the place of honor that it deserves.  Followers of Christ Jesus need to remember what the writers of Hebrews wrote: Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous (Hebrews 13:4; ESV). This begins in our thoughts and desires, which means if we are going to hold sex in honor then we need to break away from the patterns of this world.  In other words we can no longer allow our flesh to guide our sexuality.

Our flesh (I dislike the term “sinful nature”) is firmly rooted in the things of this world.  It craves things that are sensual, things that can experienced by the five senses, and thus it is selfish.  Since the flesh is selfish it distorts the cravings for the good things God has given and goes on an all out pursuit to consume those things.  I think sex and food are two blessings God has given that our flesh selfishly consumes with negative effects on our bodies and souls.

The problem for you and me, even though we follow Jesus, is that we live in a world that has gone wrong, and we are faced with the reality of people being lead by their flesh in pursuit of sex, and it is easy to think that this is what sex is meant to be.  Things as innocent as love songs, chick flicks, and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue to culturally accepted things like steamy movies, homosexuality, and pornography to disturbing things like child pornography, bestiality, and sadism cry out the terrible truth that our sexuality has gone terribly wrong.  When left unchecked our flesh will take us to places we never intended to go, and so it is very important that we don’t allow it to lead our lives, and that includes our sexuality. How do we break free from being led by the flesh?

The simple answer is that we allow the Spirit to guide our lives.  The apostle Paul wrote; But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do (Galatians 5:16, 17; ESV).  Paul is clear that if we don’t want to gratify cravings of our flesh we need to let the Spirit guide our lives.  The trouble that we run into, at least the trouble I have had, is that I haven’t always been clear on how we let the Spirit lead our lives.  When we read on in Galatians 5 we don’t find a guide on how to be Spirit led, but we get two pictures.  In verses 19-21 Paul gives us a description of what it looks like to be lead by the flesh and in verses 22-23 Paul provides the image of what it looks like to be guided by the Spirit, but he doesn’t tell us how it is done.

Let me offer a few insights I have had as I have sought to live a Spirit-guided life.  First, it requires that we offer our lives to God.  In the often used passage of Romans 12:1-2 we read; I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (ESV).  In other words we have to understand that our lives are not our own, but they are God’s and we need to live them is such away that will please Him (Galatians 2:20).  We do that by rejecting the ways of this world and seeking God’s will.  We have to intentionally move away from the influences of the world and soak our minds and hearts in God’s Word.  If we don’t make this break we allow this world to give strength to our flesh.  You know what?  If we truly offer our lives to God it will mean that we won’t be able to consume the media, the philosophies, and standards of this world like we have in the past.  In fact, gasp, it might mean turning off the television and picking up the Bible.  If we want to be free from the leadership of the flesh we have to be ruthless with it.  Paul tells us; And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24; ESV).  If we are not ruthless with our flesh it will weasel its way into the leadership position of our lives.

Not only do we offer our lives to God, but we invite the Spirit into our lives.  Colossians 1:9-10 has become a favorite passage for me.  The apostle Paul wrote; And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (ESV).  We need to pray for and ask God to fill us with knowledge, wisdom, and understanding so we are able to live lives that honor Christ Jesus.  In this same vein I don’t know why we shouldn’t pray and ask the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts and guide our lives, including our sexuality.

We need to offer our lives to God, we need to invite the Spirit into our lives, and we need to love people.  Remember I said that our flesh is selfish.  It wants to consume to that it feels good.  So to combat this selfishness we need to intentional love people.  We need to ask God to give us eyes of compassion instead of eyes of lust and we need to choose to extend a helping hand rather than a groping hand so that we understand that life is greater than our desires.  Love helps us move past the idea that others exist for our enjoyment to understanding that others exist, just like me, to worship God.  It is this type of serving unconditional love that only comes from the work of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22).

Sexuality is too precious of a gift to allow our flesh to be our guide, because in its pursuit to consume it will destroy the gift.  The Spirit will lead us to place sex in a place of honor in our lives, and when it is in its proper place we will experience the enjoyment of sex that God intended for us to have from the beginning.  Yet, this won’t happen magically, it requires that we intentionally surrender our lives to Christ Jesus by offering our lives to God, by inviting the Spirit to be our guide, and by committing ourselves to love people. Great sex happens, not because advice offered in some magazine, but because the guidance of the Spirit.

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