Archive for June, 2015

1 Corinthians 9:18-23 — There is no time greater than now for me to run across this passage of 1 Corinthians 18-23. We have such great controversy in our land. Paul provides sound, eternal advice. We must keep our eye on the ball. There are eternal consequences for those who do not have reverent awe for God. However, it is our job to carry out the commission that Jesus Christ gave us. Even if you are filled with great sorrow at the path our world seems to be headed down, we still have work to do. If we are to love like Jesus, and live like Jesus, and leave disciples behind like Jesus, then we must get to our work of bringing the gospel message of Jesus Christ to a world who needs Him now more than ever. Buckle up your bootstraps soldiers of Christ, we cannot give up.

There are several principles that Paul teaches us in this passage, the first of which is to find common ground. Instead of withdrawing behind fences and finding our safe upper room, we must engage our culture now more than ever. We must find ways to engage those who thumb there nose at God’s Word currently. We must find ways to encounter them that demonstrates the love of Jesus Christ toward them. For those that hate people simply because of the color of their skin, let us find common ground with them so that we can engage them where they are at. We must engage them with Scripture to demonstrate that we are called to love others not hate them. We must demonstrate how Jesus did not think twice about sitting down with people who were considered taboo by society. Jesus never compromised on issues of sin but He never wrote anyone off either. We must find common ground with non-heterosexuals. We must engage them at what they believe they are fighting for – freedom to be who they believe they are. We must engage that issue from a gospel perspective. Jesus would have sat down with homosexuals and reasoned with them from Scripture and demonstrated to them how God loves them and wants what’s best for them and demonstrate from a loving gospel perspective how this behavior is against God’s plan not because they are inherently evil but rather because a loving God desires for us not to go down paths that He knows are destructive for us. We must engage not withdraw. We must find common ground. If we withdraw from the world in which we have been placed by God, we are failing at our commission. We must change the world from the inside out. We cannot change the world standing on the sidelines throwing our hands up in disgust.

We must also avoid the temptation for spiritual arrogance. In today’s world, where biblical illiteracy is at an all time high, it is easy to come at the world with an “I get it but you don’t attitude.” To be truly a Christ follower, when we read the Bible with objective eyes it is clear that the unrepentant practice of sin is against the will of God. To say that practicing homosexuality is not a sin ignores the plain truth of the Bible. You cannot reconcile the practice of sin with the love of a just God. The unrepentant practice of any sexual activity outside the marriage of a man and a woman is simply inconsistent with the commands of Scripture, both in the Old and the New Testaments. To hate homosexuals is wrong but to give Scriptural integrity to the practice of homosexuality is inconsistent with the clear directives of God in Scripture. In such situations where fellow Christians want to play both sides of the street on this issue, it is easy for us to become spiritually arrogant. To those outside the faith that ignore or twist Scripture to get it to say things that support their lifestyle, it is easy to become spiritually arrogant. We can easily think we have the corner on the market of God’s Word. When you are a student of the Word, you can easily become spiritually arrogant toward those who clearly do not understand Scripture, those that believe the Bible says things that it does not, and become particularly arrogant toward those falsely say that the Bible says this thing but it is clear that they have not ever studied or even read the Bible. Let us avoid this type of arrogance. Unless you are among the lucky few that were saved by grace as a child, many of us were in the same boats as the people we may have a sense of spiritual arrogance toward now. You and were one ignorant of the Word. You and I once thumbed our nose up at God when living lifestyles ourselves that were clearly in contradiction to Scripture. We justified it by making the Bible say what we wanted it to say if we gave the Bible any credence at all. We all once did our best to find inconsistencies in Scripture so as to invalidate it and thereby let ourselves off the hook for our sin-filled lives. Arrogance has no influence. Only love does. We must combat our spiritual arrogance and engage those who thumb their nose at God proudly in the public square. We must also guide and love our fellow Christians who try to reconcile the ungodly with the godly just so they will be considered mainstream. Ivory tower Christianity is the easy answer. Loving, teaching, guiding, instructing is dirty and messy but it is our job to win the world to Christ. Arrogance has no place.

When we lose our arrogance over what others do not know about God’s Word, it allows us to be sensitive to the world around us. As I said earlier, we were once shaking our fists at God ourselves. We must be sensitive to those who do not understand God’s justice as well as His love. We must be sensitive that the world teaches us that we are our own gods. The world takes great pains to teach you and me that the way I live my life should be left alone. The world tells us that I am the aribiter of what’s right and what’s wrong for me! The world tells us that we determine our own morality. We must be sensitive to that worldly view. Submitting to God requires that we radically change our mindset. We must be sensitive to there being a lack of understanding that there are moral absolutes defined by God. We must be sensitive to the lack of understanding that God exists, that He created the universe, that none of this is random, that God has a plan for each of us, that God has expectations of us. In a world that has forgotten God and seeks after only its desires, we must be sensitive to how common and widespread these worldly beliefs are. We must seek God’s guidance on how to penetrate and engage this me-only world in which we find ourselves.

Why should we find common ground? Why should we lose our spiritual arrogance? Why should we be sensitive to the worldly attitudes of today’s culture? To fit in and become part of it? No. Paul says why he utilized his Jewish scholarly background to speak to the Jews. Paul says why he utilized his understanding of Greek and Roman culture to speak to the Greeks and Romans. He met people right where they were at in their life so that he could have the opportunity to speak of Jesus Christ. We must engage the non-believers in their lives. We must get messy with them in their mess. We must get down in the trenches with them. We must demonstrate to them that our lives are just as messy as theirs but that we find our hope and our eternal destiny in Jesus Christ. Now is not the time for us to withdraw our ivory towers and wash our hands of the world that we know is blatantly shaking its fist at God. We must engage. We must get out there. We must get to know the world not shun it. We must do this to have opportunities to speak of Jesus Christ. Jesus never promised that our job as Christ followers was going to be easy. And it is easy to want to withdraw right now. We must press on. This is a fight that is worth fighting. This is a race worth running. There are souls in the balance. Do you really want anyone to spend eternity separated from God in hell?

Advertisements

1 Corinthians 9:1-17 — Another controversial subject is that of pastoral pay. Certainly, it is not as controversial as some topics that are among us these days but nonetheless, it can stir up controversy. Certainly, there are those pastors, particularly ones with national or international followings, that have given the controversy some fire. Meanwhile, many local pastors suffer because of lack of support both for their churches in general and for their income specifically. Regardless of the situation, pastors must never let money overcome their calling to spread the gospel. In this passage, Paul defends his calling and defends the right of all pastors to be taken care of financially but yet he states that this must not be their primary concern.

In today’s world, we see many preachers, particularly those with national or international followings, who live the life of significant opulence compared to many working class folk. There are those that have opulent lifestyles with fine cars, fine homes, and there are even those that fully believe that they need private jets to be paid for by their followers. Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar and others such as these are often criticized for their opulent lifestyle while at the same time twisting the gospel into a prosperity self-help manual. Many of their claims are that if you are not financially blessed you are not in tune with the will of God. They often use this message to defend their own opulent lifestyles. They seemed to have become self-absorbed into their own opulence. Security details, private jets, appearance fees, it all seems completely foreign to what we expect of pastors. When we make our ministries about us and about how in tune with God we are based upon our financial status, then we have lost touch with the gospel. When the message becomes about financial blessings as evidence of my closeness to God, we have forgotten the gospel. Being a follower of Jesus Christ has never been about financial blessings. Our blessings, if financial, are never so that we can buy private jets or have to pay security guards because we feel so self-important that we feel threatened. Our blessings are given us so that we can bless others. When we are given much, we are to be a blessing to others through our generosity. If I feel I need a big fine house and the latest toys with big price tags as evidence of a what God will do for you mentality, we have got it all wrong. We are born to praise God in everything that we do. Our money should be one of the ways that we praise God. We should use our money to further the mission of the church so that God is given glory. When we use our money to give glory to God, we participate in the spreading of the gospel. So, often we find these prosperity preachers with their faces plastered all over everything the sell. Just who is their brand of gospel about?

Certainly, these types of pastors give Christianity a black eye. They are false prophets of what we call the prosperity gospel. While they fly around in opulence, many local pastors who have a true heart for God often struggle in this day and age to make ends meet because churchgoers often fail to support their local church in a biblically obedient manner or they feel as though for some reason the pastor should be a pauper. When people fail to tithe because they are chasing the American Dream rather than placing a priority on be obedient to God in their finances, the church suffers. When we are not obedient to God by cheerfully being obedient to God’s command to tithe, the ministries of the church suffer. We cannot penetrate our communities, nations and our world with the gospel in the manner we are capable when this happens. One of those ministries is the support of the pastor or pastors of your church. When a pastor is called to preach the gospel, he places himself trustfully in the hands of those who he leads. It has been a tradition since the Old Testament days at the temple that the priests were taken care of from the offerings of animals and money at the temple. We want our pastors to focus on the thing that they are called to focus on rather than worrying about whether they need to send their wife and kids home to her mother’s house because they cannot makes ends meet. We want our pastor to be focused on teaching and preaching and not whether or not he has enough money to buy groceries this week. One of the ministries we have as churchgoers is to ensure that our pastors have what they need to support their families. Let us not think negatively about our dollars given to the church being given to support some supposed opulent lifestyle of our pastor. Let us think about honoring God with what He command us to do with the firstfruits of our labors. We are to be obedient in this way to God. We are not to decide that oh the preacher just bought a new car, then I must be giving too much to the church. We are simply to be obedient to God’s command about our finances. God will judge how wisely that money is being used and will expose it if it is not.

When we get mired in issues of whether our pastor makes too much money or whether a pastor gets consumed with his finances (both in the sense of too much and in the sense of too little), Satan smiles. A pastor called to preach the gospel must give that his primary concern. He must trust that God through the pastor’s local congregation will meet his needs. A pastor must be generous with the blessings that he is given just as any other person being blessed financially by God. As a pastor, one must be so consumed by the gospel that we can do nothing else but preach. We must trust in God that our people will be obedient to God’s command and that we will be taken care of. The same is true of us as the body of Christ. We should honor God with our finances and allow the ministries of our church be blessed by them. We must trust God that it will be used wisely. As the financial director of my church, I am aware of the fact that our pastors do not demand extravagant salaries. None drive fancy cars or have opulent homes. I am aware that each one has an amazing passion for reaching the world with the gospel. I am aware that each of them can do nothing else but be preachers. Each dime is spent as wisely as possible. Our financial records at our church are open for examination at any time by anyone. Each penny is accounted for and is spent with the focus being on making Jesus’ name famous in our community, our nation and our world. That should be the focus. Our obedience to the Lord in our giving and in the church’s generosity to the world around it should be normal operating activities without question. When we start quibbling over how much the pastor makes or the pastor thinking more about the money he makes than the gospel he preaches then we have lost our way, we have lost our mission. We should be about the gospel of Jesus Christ and spreading the good news of salvation through Him that reconciles us to a just and righteous God. That’s the job description of preachers and of the body of Christ. Anything different from that makes Satan smile.

As you know, unless you have been living under a rock for the past week, the Supreme Court of the United States of America issued its ruling on same-sex marriage earlier this week. I have not spoken publicly on this issue yet because I have been really trying to process my thoughts on this issue. My thoughts boil down to a couple of points. First, I have real concerns about the liberty of our society going forward when the Supreme Court our land steps out beyond its boundaries as the arbiter and interpreter of laws in relationship to the Constitution. Second, there is the issue that the rulings of the Supreme Court do not square with Scripture regardless of the spin that some place upon it. Finally, as Christ followers, we must approach this new world with an eye for pointing people to Christ, the same Christ that opened our eyes to our lifestyles that grieved the heart of God.

The first issue that I have been wrestling with in response to the Court’s ruling is that the Court made law this week instead of just interpreting it. Along those lines as well, did they interpret the Constitution correctly? I do not claim to be a constitutional law expert but there are some basic principles that I understand. I am a judicial conservative when it comes to the Constitution. In my opinion, we cannot make it say what it does not say just to solve a social problem. There are two linchpins on which this ruling rests. Those are the 10th Amendment and the 14th Amendment. Those arguing in front of the Court to preserve laws on the books argued under the 10th Amendment that the people of our country in causing this amendment to be added to the Constitution that there was a fear that the US central government could overstep its bounds if its powers were not specifically enumerated and limited to those that were enumerated. Progressively though over the past 150 years or so, the power of the 10th Amendment has slowly been eroding away by the courts, Congress and the Executive branches of government. Our Federal government has more power now than ever envisioned by the founders of our country. This week’s ruling again expands the power of the Federal government. The 10th Amendment expressly stated that those powers not specifically enumerated in the Constitution as belong to the central government were not to be its powers. Anything specifically stated as a power of the central government was specifically stated to be a power of the states and/or the people. I challenge anyone to find in the Constitution that the power of defining marriage as one of the powers of the central government. It has long been the purview of the individual states to regulate civil matters such as marriage, property, law enforcement, and other such matters that are so voluminous in nature that it would be impractical for the central government to process in a timely fashion. Therefore, one of the primary issues here to me is where does the boundary of what is federal and what is state end. That is one the scary aspects of this ruling is that it takes away another power from the states. Slowly but surely, every power granted to the states will be taken away so as to ensure that specific groups are protected. That is one of clear indications of the ruling is that the courts and the federal, central government is increasing taking away the power of individual states. Should not have these state laws have been invalidated by the Court and sent back to the states to be rewritten in such a way that is compliant with the Constitution. No, the courts decided to define for us what the law is. There was no remand order. Now, the real issue is where does the power of the central government end. The Federal government ripped a gaping hole in the 10th Amendment this week. The path that we are now on makes the need for state governments almost a waste of money and time. This is not what the framers of the Constitution envisioned. They so feared an all powerful central government that has every power imaginable that they fled to United States to free themselves from the tyranny of an all powerful central government. To enforce this ruling of the Court, even more power will be accorded to the central government. The needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many. This should be alarming to the average citizen of this country regardless of whether you see this issue as a spiritual or a secular one. Our country was founded on limited federal government. As Joey Tribianni once said to Chandler Bing on Friends when Chandler had kissed Joey’s girlfriend, “you are so far beyond the line on this one that the line is a dot to you!” We are so far beyond the line of limited federal government the 10th Amendment is completely gutted. It is a dot in our rear view mirror.

Those who argue for the legality of same-sex marriage before the Court made their arguments under the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. This Amendment features the “due process of law” and “equal protection under the law” clauses under which so many issues have been argued before the Court. Proponents of same-sex marriage before the Court argued that the prohibition of same-sex marriage in the states that disallow it deprived them of the pursuit of life, liberty and property guaranteed by the post-Civil War enacted 14th Amendment. This amendment is the linchpin prevents persons from being denied access to rights under state law to declare laws that are in controversion to the amendment can be struck down. Brown vs. Board of Education that ended segregated public education was argued under this law among other landmark cases. In each of these previous landmark decisions, the arguments were to allow persons similarly situated to have the same rights under the law or that laws should be equally applied to all persons. The application of this due process and equal protection under the law is the troubling issue here. In cases of segregation, there was clear view a black man and a white man, a Native American and a white man, an Asian and a white man similarly situated should have the same rights and the same protection under the law. This concept is clear and unquestioned. The cases argued before the court were to ensure that all persons had access to rights. The issue of marriage seems more of a privilege than a right fundamental to the pursuit of life, liberty and property. Unmarried persons do not have any less protection under the law than married citizens. In case I was not married, I would still have guarantees of my ability to pursue life, liberty and property. The lack of marriage would not prevent me for enjoying equal protection under the law. Laws have not been enacted that prevent me from exercising my full rights as a citizen of a state or this country just because I am unmarried compared to married citizens. If I am unmarried, there are no laws that prevent me from passing on inheritance, voting, accessing basic human services, adopting a child and so on. Marriage, along these lines, does not appear to be an inalienable human liberty. It was not considered the purview of governments at all until the 16th century. Therefore, it was not considered something that had to be guaranteed by the government until some 500 or so years ago. It was always prior to that time considered to be the purview of the church. Marriage was a spiritual institution and not a government one. Our government was founded on the basis of ensuring that there are rights common to all mankind for all time that must be guaranteed. Marriage does not appear then to be a governmentally protected inalienable human right that must be protected by the government

Therefore, marriage at its very core is a spiritual issue. It is a God-ordained institution. According to Scripture, it is clear that marriage is reserved for the male-female relationship. According to Mike Riccardi, in the online magazine, The Cripplegate, in an article entitled, “Is it True That Jesus Never Addressed Homosexuality?”, Ricardi states,

“In Matthew 19, He [Jesus] goes out of His way to make this point in order to underscore that marriage, by its very nature, is a divinely-ordained institution—that the originator of marriage is the Creator Himself. He makes this point, which would otherwise seem superfluous, in order to make it clear that that divinely-ordained institution exists only between one man and one woman. God created man as male and female, and then brought them together in one flesh as the husband-wife relationship illustrates the complementarity and unity-in-diversity that characterizes God’s own nature as one Being who eternally exists in three Persons.” To legitimize marriage outside these boundaries is against God’s plan for marriage. To claim otherwise, one must rewrite Scripture. In 1 Corinthians 6:7-11, Paul says some controversial words in light of the recent ruling from the Supreme Court. Paul says,

“Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people – none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Paul speaks of sin and these are examples of sin. Each one of us fits into one of these categories. We probably can fit into multiple categories. The one that jumps out at us in today’s world is the one about practicing homosexuality. We are told today that it is not a sin. It is an alternative lifestyle. It is now acceptable behavior. We often hear the argument that we are no longer under the law of the Old Testament and therefore homosexuality is acceptable behavior in the post-Crucifixion world in which we live. Therefore, the 39 books of the Old Testament can be ignored. Bam. Over half the Bible thrown out the window. We, too, then have to throw Paul’s writings out too because he mentions homosexuality as being a sin. They argue that Paul created his own theology and Jesus never said anything about homosexuality being wrong. In order to get to the Bible being acceptable to homosexual lifestyles, we must get rid of 90% of the Bible. The direct quotes of Jesus Christ (the red letter words in many Bibles) comprise about 10% of the total words in the entire Bible. Jesus may not have expressly stated that homosexuality was a sin but his ministry was among the Jews for the most part and as such it was commonly accepted that such lifestyles were against Scripture. He had no need to preach to the choir. There was common agreement.

Further, Jesus himself said that He did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Paul’s theology is based on the fact that the law points us to our need for Jesus. We are all condemned by our sins. Therefore, we need Jesus’ grace through his death on the cross as the sacrifice for our sins that makes us right with God. God’s timeless truth is inconvenient to those who are reveling in their sin whether it be homosexuals, adulterers, thieves, slanderers, liars, cheaters, murderers, etc. When we refuse to call our favorite sin a sin, we begin rationalizing away God’s truth. We parce down the Bible to only the parts that we think are agreeable to the lifestyle that we desire to lead. We, thus, say that we are higher than God. We become our own gods. We define truth for ourselves. There down the slippery slope we go until all behaviors are acceptable because I myself determine what is right and wrong. No need for God ultimately. To revel in sin and call it not sin does not make it any less sin in the eyes of our Creator who is truth. We can go as far as to say He does not exist but that does not mean that He doesn’t! We are all sinners.

I have focused on homosexuality here because it is the hot button topic of our day. We hear it declared in public squares that it is no longer a sin. It is now given public validation in the highest court of our land. We are mistaken. It is a sin. Plain and simple. To refuse to see it as such is to ignore virtually all of God’s Word. If being forced to choose between the ever lowering morality of man vs. the timeless moral absolutes of God’s Word, I will choose God’s Word.

However, before you lynch me at the tree of today’s intolerant tolerance, let us remind ourselves that practicing homosexuality is part of a laundry list of behaviors that if unrepentantly practiced will exclude us from the kingdom of God. The adulterer who continually has sex outside of his marriage and has no remorse or repentance in his soul is just as condemned as anyone else before God. Our society is continually scarred by adulterous behavior. Broken homes. Single parent families. Multiple stepdads and stepmoms. Kids with different last names than their mothers. Baby daddies instead of fathers. Women with no regard for the treasure that they carry and who give it away like cheap dime store candy. And that’s just sexual sin. Murder is rampant in our society. Lying reaches the highest levels as we spin the world to be what makes us all look the best. Greed is on display constantly where charitable causes and churches struggle to make ends meet but yet we do not think twice about financing $50,000 vehicles and $500,000 homes that we cannot afford. The vacation industry is booming as we seek to indulge ourselves rather than helping the homeless. Alcohol sales are at an all-time high as we seek to numb our souls. Alcoholism equally is at an all-time high. Courts are full nowadays with claims of cheating. There are more lawyers per capita on the planet now than there ever has been as we seek to blame others for stupid mistakes that we make. At least with the homosexual contingent, they have spent time parcing down the Bible to justify the rightness of their cause so that they can continue to enjoy their sin without any guilt. The rest of us simply ignore biblical truth when we continue flagrantly to enjoy our sins. Unrepentant. Blatantly ignoring the Word of God. When it comes to the sin(s) that we do not want to give up, we simply ignore what the Bible says. Many quit reading the Bible altogether because of the conviction that it will bring concerning our pet sins. To say that homosexuality is the demon of all sins is incorrect for we are all sinners. The only way that we can justify homosexuality is to rip pages out of the Bible and move on to live that lifestyle unrepentantly. The only way to justify any sin that we wish to not give up is to rip pages out of the Bible. The only way to justify our flagrant disregard for our pet behavior that is against God’s Word is to out and out ignore it. In this age, it is easy for Christians to overlook or tolerate some immoral behaviors as greed and call it the pursuit of the American Dream. It is easy to ignore drunkenness and call it having a good time while remaining outraged at murder, theft, and homosexuality. All of it is sin. There is no one sin that is greater than another. All sin, one sin condemns us before our Maker.

It is this realization that changes the game. It is the law that exposes our utter failure to live holy lives before a holy God. We are condemned. We are all of us bound for hell without intervention from a loving but just God. He so wants us to avoid final judgment to hell that He sent His Son to be the sacrificial lamb for our sins. Through His substitutionary sacrifice, our sins are forgiven. That which on our own will condemn us to hell is washed away. The slate is cleaned. The only requirement for this cleansing of sin’s stain and sin’s sentence to hell is to repent from our sins and turn away from them. We must call out to Jesus Christ to deliver us from our own evil. When we profess with our mouth and believe in our heart that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came to die for our sins and proclaim Him to be the Lord over our lives, He will send the Holy Spirit of God to live and dwell in our souls. We must give over control of our desires, wants, and needs to a holy God through the action of the Holy Spirit in our souls. When we see what we were before and what we are now in Christ, that should change our perspective on how we must react to those who are actively practicing lifestyles of any kind that are in direct opposition to Scripture. We were there ourselves before we met Jesus Christ.

We are must be careful to point out that the lifestyles are in opposition to Scripture rather than making the person a demon. We were once unrepentant sinners ourselves until someone took the time to get to know us and talk to us about our life in comparison to Scripture. On the hot button issue of homosexuality, we must not fear them, ridicule them, or demonize them. We cannot make this sin any greater than any other sin. We cannot praise the unrepentant display of greed, a sin, while demonizing those who unrepentantly practice homosexuality. Their lives can be transformed just as ours were. The church should be a haven for forgiveness and healing for repentant homosexuals without compromising our stance on the unrepentant practice of homosexuality. We are all being transformed from the emptiness of sin into the fullness of life in Jesus Christ.

Even murderers such as Dillon Roof can be transformed by the healing power of forgiveness in repentance before Jesus Christ. None are too far gone that repentance and reaching out to Jesus Christ cannot save. We saw true Christ followers offer the forgiveness of a Savior to man who had just killed their family members. Murderers, rapists, homosexuals, sexually promiscuous men and women, drug addicts, greedy people, adulterers, idol worshipers, all those who actively participate in sins that are in opposition to Scripture should be treated no differently that the Emanuel AME church parishioners treated Dillon Roof. When they expect condemnation from us, we offer them Jesus Christ. Paul says,

“Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of Jesus and by the Spirit of God!”

Let us be that church. Transformed people reaching out to unrepentant sinners and helping them see their sins for what they are…in love, not hate. Transforming with love not hate. Not accepting lifestyles that are in opposition to Scripture but realizing that we once raised our fist at God too so that we come from a position of love rather than judgment or hate. Prayer instead of protest. Engagement rather than ivory tower condemnation. Leading with Jesus rather than our opinion.

1 Corinthians 8 — Sex! Now that I have your attention again! We are actually NOT going to talk about sex today. We are leaving 1 Corinthians 7 now and moving on to 1 Corinthians 8. Even though this chapter is not about sex, it is about an important and timely issue.

Causing less mature believers to stumble is the subject of this passage/chapter. The specific subject matter may seem foreign to us because it is talking about food that previously had been offered up to false gods in the Greek temples in Corinth, but it is this main idea that is as applicable to us today as ever. In today’s world there are many subjects that can separate and divide people and as leaders in our local bodies of the church and social media can be one of the ways that we cause people to stumble. There are social behavior issues that can divide and there can social belief issues that can divide us. No truer can this point be that what we are experiencing right now. In the end, as Christian leaders we must be careful as to how we respond to issues and correlate our responses with Scripture. Things that divide and things that can make others stumble in their walk can go the range from the meaningless to the important. We will start with a meaningless social issue that can divide and cause a stumble and move to more important issues.

One of the things that can actually divide Christian brothers and make them stumble is meaningless in eternity. Never is this more true than in my home state of South Carolina. Here, we are ever so passionate about our college football. In South Carolina, you must make a choice when you come out of the womb. The doctor will ask you as a newborn, “Carolina or Clemson?” In a state that did not have a nearby professional football team until 1995, the Clemson-Carolina thing is real. It is passionate. It is to me the best of the college football rivalries. Both schools have wildly passionate fan bases. In South Carolina, this rivalry can divide branches of families. It can divide neighbors. It can divide households. For example, my wife is a Gamecock fan. Her daughter is a graduate of University of South Carolina at Columbia. For those to whom it has not yet become obvious, I am a die-hard Tiger fan. My oldest daughter is a graduate of Clemson University. My church is about 75% Gamecock and about 25% Tiger (it’s weird Spartanburg though in the Upstate of South Carolina has always been a garnet and black stronghold for some reason). For all of the passion that we each have for Clemson and USC, it is meaningless in eternity. When we meet our Maker, He is not going to ask us about whether or not we were a Clemson fan or whether or not we were a Gamecock fan. It does not mean a thing. When Clemson wins the Palmetto Bowl, the sun will still come up tomorrow for Gamecock fans and vice versa. Clemson going 12-1 or 11-2 in a season does not change the situation of Pastor Saeed in Iraq. Yet, there are those who will let this Clemson-Carolina thing become a defining issue in their lives. People have left churches over this issue. We have had people leave LifeSong over comments our senior pastor, who is Gamecock fan, has made about their recent streak over the Tigers that ended this past year. My father, also a pastor, and also a Tiger fan, has lost church members over comments he has made about the Gamecocks when Clemson wins. In my own extended family, where my kids, myself and my father are the only Tigers in a decidedly garnet extended family, I have had family members actually “unfriend me” on Facebook over this issue. It is meaningless in eternity though. Whether I am a Tiger or Gamecock is not a determining factor of my value in the eyes of God. For all its passion and pageantry, football is meaningless in eternity. As leaders of Christ’s church, we must tread carefully on issues such as Clemson-Carolina because it is something that actually can cause others to stumble in their Christian walk. It can be a divisive issue. We must be cognizant of the meaningless things that people attach real value to. A careless comment about Clemson-Carolina can actually cause people to stumble in their walk with Christ, believe it or not. We must always remind the churches that we lead that we must keep our eye on the ball, the right ball, not the football, but the ball of people being led to and people maturing in Jesus Christ. That’s the game that matters.

On more important subjects, we must be cognizant of how our personal walk with Christ affects others. If I am a leader, I must be aware that how I handle myself when I am away from the church is important. If I am seen drinking a glass of wine with dinner, I must cognizant that others may be offended by it. Though I love a good wine with a meal and am somewhat of wine aficianado and love telling the difference between types of wine and grades of wine, I must be cognizant someone young in the faith, particularly those who have had trouble with alcoholism, may have issue with me drinking wine on occasion. I am a fan of trying different kinds of beer from all over the world and particularly from local breweries when I visit a new town. I must remember that the issue of alcohol consumption can be a dividing issue and stumbling block for some. Although we should not let others shape our own walk with Christ, we should be cognizant of those issues that divide. It is clear from Scripture that alcohol consumption in and of itself is not sinful. However, Scripture is quite clear that drunkenness is a sin. When we allow alcohol to control who we are and how we behave it is a sin. When alcohol becomes a god to us it is a sin. On such more important issues, where there is a line in the sand, as a leader, I must be cognizant of where that line is and never go near it as it could cause others to stumble.

On important social issues of today, it is important as ever to measure responses to them in ways that point people to Scripture and to Jesus Christ. Right now there is an issue that is dividing us that has been created by influences that seem to be out of South Carolinians making. While South Carolinians were demonstrating love and compassion for one another in the wake of the shootings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, there are those who came in and changed the game to be about the Confederate Battle Flag. As a Southern boy through and through myself, I love the South. I love what the South has become. Although there are dark corners of our past that were horrible, there are honorable things about our past as well. I think the thing that I am proudest of is that in today’s South for the most part (outside those fringe elements on both sides of the color spectrum) blacks and whites are working together day by day side by side without it being a major issue. Southerners, both black and white, are pragmatic and see the destruction of cities over race issues as keeping us from working and making money for our families. There are things that divide though. The Confederate Battle Flag is that bone of contention. As a leader in the church, my position on this issue can cause others to stumble. The Confederate Battle Flag used only in the time of the Confederacy to fly over the armies of South and for no other purpose has since been used since the actual era of the confederacy to symbolize racist activities on the part of white people. Regardless of the history of honor and valor, it also has connotations of lynchings and segregated restaurants and buses to others. This issue can cause division within our bodies of Christ. However, we as leaders cannot let these issues divide our bodies and we as leaders must choose our words carefully. We must point people not to the past of the South. We must point people to the future of the South. We must not point people to the qualities of the Confederate Battle Flag and give history lessons and point out falsehoods about the flag, we must point out the inside and outside of Emanuel AME Church. We must point them to the Cooper River Bridge where blacks and whites stood hand in hand in love. We must point them to the love of Jesus Christ. We must find that thing that unites us. The Confederate Battle Flag for whatever it means to you whether it be positive or negative, it is the past. It’s era is done. Let us look to our future. Let us look to that which unites us. Let us point people to Jesus Christ. That is the good thing about the South. We still have Jesus Christ very prevalent in our lives both black and white. Let us look for that which points us to our Savior.

Paul speaks to us through the centuries. If he were in the South right now, he would say to us as he said to the church at Cornith. Let us keep our eye on what’s important. What’s important is people finding Jesus Christ and people maturing in their walk with him. It is not about whether I am a Clemson or a Carolina fan. It is not about whether I have an occasional beer or a glass of wine. It is not about whether I support the Confederate Battle Flag or not. He would say that the love and mercy shown by the Christ followers of Charleston over the past weeks is what is important. Let us not quibble over things that do not matter in eternity. Let us not get caught up in pointing people to things that do not matter in eternity. Let us get caught up in pointing people to Jesus Christ. Let me be cognizant as a leader of the church to use all situations, all situations to point people to Christ. Let me be cognizant that how I respond to social situations can cause others to fall away. Help me to think before I act and speak. Help me to ensure that I am pointing people to Christ by my words and actions.

1 Corinthians 7:1-40 — The single life. It is often idealized. It is often ridiculed. It seems to be a fleeting place. We have been talking the past few days about marriage (sexual relations in marriage as marriage is biblically defined, and marriage between a believer and a non-believer). Now, today, we talk about being a single, unmarried Christ follower. In our culture, single life in some ways is idealized where you are free to do whatever you want, whenever you want, sleep with whomever you want. In some ways, it is ridiculed because singleness is considered a phase that we go through and not an end to itself. Those who are single are often seen as people who are unwilling to make a commitment, unwilling to grow up and settle down, people that screwed up their marriage in the past, people who got screwed over in their marriage. Singleness is seen in general as a waiting period rather than a permanent state of being. It is the road to the destination of marriage. If a person is single, does that make them more useful or less useful to the kingdom of God? If a person is single should they see themselves simply in transition to marriage (either into marriage for the first time or a transition from one marriage to their next and hopefully final one)?

When I think of people who cannot stand being single and just seem to get married to end loneliness instead of allowing God to bring them the person they are intended to be with, I think of missed blessings. There are so many people out there, including me in my past, who define themselves by the fact of whether they are in a relationship or not. That was me until I was in my early 40s when my second marriage fell apart. When my first marriage ended after 12 years, I jumped right into my second long term relationship which involved living together for a year and then being married for 9 more years after that. I was not until I was in my early 40s that I was truly single, truly alone. I did not react to it well. I thought I had to be in a relationship at all times. I defined myself by whether I was having sex or not. Access to sex was the defining rule of my life. It took those six years of singlehood to make me realize that relationships do not define me, sexual relations do not define me. It is God who defines me. It was not until I met Elena that I learned that a relationship can be more about friendship than sex. My other relationship were about putting up with or accepting things just so I could have sex. With Elena, I finally found someone who, as my mother told me many years ago, that I could be best friends with outside the bedroom as much as we were inside the bedroom. The point that I am trying to make through this self-revelation is that being single is not necessarily a curse. It is not necessarily a bad thing. Sure, it can be lonely. Many people naively think that marriage will solve all their problems. Marriage will note solve loneliness. It will not solve self-esteem. It will not solve sexual temptation. It will not solve our deepest soul needs. It will not give you personal value. Marriage itself does not hold the magic elixir. Marriage only works when you have two people that are self-aware and are confident in their value in God. Marriage can be good then, really good. When we come at marriage from a standpoint of seeing that we are fully valued by God in our ownselves, we do not overburden the marriage to be the answer to all our problems.

Singleness can be so amazing in this way. It can such a time of spiritual growth. It can be a time of selectivity. It can be a time where we realize that the world will not explode because we are not in a relationship. It can give us confidence in ourselves and who we are in Christ. In some couples, you sometimes wonder if the man or woman’s faith is dependent on the faith of the spouse (i.e., they do not have a full fledged faith of their own). During singlehood, we can learn that our faith is our own. We can learn that we are individually beautifully and wonderfully made. Being single can often times mature our faith in Jesus Christ because He is our relationship. Being single is not a bad thing for us in maturing our faith. It can teach us things about ourselves that we need to work on before we marry or marry again. It can be that crucible time of our lives where our impurities are revealed to us by God and then burned away through the work of the Holy Spirit. If you are single, celebrate where you are. Don’t waste the time you are single. Use it to allow God to mold you into the spiritual warrior that He wants you to be.

We must also realize that when we are single God may have us right where He wants us. Sometimes, like I said above, it can be a time of self-examination and self-revelation but it can also be for a wider kingdom purpose. In singleness, we cannot be so concerned about getting married again that we miss the ministry opportunities that are before us. God may have us remaining single for specific ministry purpose. Let us be aware that God may have us right where He wants us when we are single. Because God has placed you in singleness, let us take advantage of every opportunity to serve Him while we are there. God may have you single so you want miss opportunities to become a missionary in a foreign land which would be way more difficult if you were married. God may have you single so that you will not miss the opportunity to go into full time ministry. These things can happen in married life but it requires the two people in the marriage to be called together. There is no such thing as a preacher being not to full time ministry without his wife being called also. So, if you are single, the decision process to follow God’s call is a lot simpler. You have the freedom to follow God wherever He leads you. This may be why he has you in this place in this moment in time. Marriage, home, security is not the ultimate goals of life. The American Dream is not the ultimate goal in life. Serving the Lord is our primary reason for being. Marriage is God ordained yes but it is a cherry on the sundae not our reason for being. When we are single, we have an amazing opportunity to define the future rules of our life. When others succumb to the need to be with someone for being with someone’s sake, they then begin to fill their lives with things and people that will prevent them from doing God’s will for their lives. When we are single, we can say that I am going to pay off all my debts, I am going to live modestly, so that I can follow God’s call on my life and be available for whatever He has in store for me. Then along the way, if I find a spouse who is of like mind then God will put them in my path. Anything less is a waste of time and a delay. We are called to love God first. If we don’t get that right when we are single, we may never find the relationship in our spouse that God intended for us.

Singleness does not mean we are less useful to God. It can be a time of greater usefulness than when we are married. Don’t see your singleness as wasted time. See it as God’s time to work you and mold you into His mighty warrior. See as the time to love Him first. See it as time to arrange your life so that you can follow His call first. It is funny that when we put Him first, He inevitably will bring you the spouse that you need to move forward together in serving Him. If more of us used our singleness as our time and opportunity to love God first, to serve Him first, then maybe just maybe there would be more Christ centered marriages that go the distance.

1 Corinthians 7:1-40 — Yesterday, we talked about sex! We talked about how sexual relations between a husband and a wife is symbolic and necessary for their to be true spiritual union between them. Now, today, we talk a subject that often makes a major difference in marriages and can land a marriage squarely on the rocks. It can even lead to divorce. Today, we will take a look at 1 Corinthians 7:10-16. This passage talks about being married if your husband or wife is not a believer in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Here we go again. Another proof that the Bible is applicable to today’s world as it ever was. It is after all the ageless, timeless Word of God. In many marriages today, this is a hot topic. How to handle life as a Christ follower when your spouse does not know Christ as their Savior and Lord. At the time of this letter, some people in the Corinthian church thought that they should divorce their pagan spouses and marry a fellow Christ follower instead. Paul affirms the marriage commitment. It is God’s ideal for husbands and wives to stay together – even when one spouse is a non-believer. Wow! That is very topical today’s world much less it being addressed to a specific issue in the Corinthian church in the first century.

The first point that Paul makes is that we may not always get to choose the circumstances in which the marriage finds itself. Many of us when we marry are not believers in Jesus Christ – neither the husband nor the wife. How do we handle such things. What if we become a believer during our marriage and our spouse refuses or at least only pays lip service to this whole Christ follower thing but never becomes a true believer. What do we do then? Do we immediately divorce our spouse? You see it play out in many marriages today. The couple grows up living the party lifestyle. The couple grows up living the American Dream of self-indulgence and in pursuit of things to make us happy. One of the husband or wife then realizes that this lifestyle is so empty and meaningless and begins searching and seeking. They find Christ and it changes their whole outlook on life. It changes them from seeking the next self-indulgent thing to a life that is a pleasing aroma to Jesus Christ. They seek to please God in everything they do. They are changed from the inside out. Yet, their husband or wife refuses to accept the change in them and most of all they reject this Jesus Christ thing. Paul says it would be easy to rationalize leaving a non-believing spouse. Paul believed like Jesus (Mark 10:1-9) that marriage is a binding commitment that is permanent in nature. Paul says that we should stay in our marriages to the non-believers because of the influence for Christ that we can be in the home. We can be a positive influence on our non-believing spouse. The blessing that from our own salvation don’t stop with us. They extend outward to the people around us. God regards the marriage as set apart for his use by the presence of one Christian spouse. The non-believing spouse does not receive salvation through the presence of the believing spouse but is blessed through the presence of the believing spouse. Even though they may reject Jesus Christ, the non-believing spouse is constantly being exposed to Christian values in an intimate setting. They get to see first hand how a believer processes life through the lens of Jesus Christ and Scripture. It is like having a ring side seat at a prize fight. It is like having sideline pass at a major college’s football game. They get to see you process life up close in a way that they would not otherwise see. What if we decided to leave our non-believing spouse, how are they going to get as close a look at the Holy Spirit in action daily if you leave?

Paul’s statements here are given to encourage the Christian spouse to try to make their marriages to non-believers work. Paul was writing to say to be people that you can do God’s work and demonstrate your faith in any situation. If you became a Christian after marriage and your spouse is a not a believer, you can still be a Christ follower. You can still live for Christ. Don’t assume that you are in the wrong place or the wrong marriage. You may be exactly where God wants you to be. You may be the one that leads your spouse to Christ and your spouse may, even though it may not seem like it at the moment, become a powerful voice for Jesus Christ. God may have intended to be in this marriage to be the gospel catalyst that brings your spouse to Christ. Go to the Lord in fervent prayer for the salvation of your spouse. Lift them up. View them from this lens that you are there to be an example for them. Don’t lord it over them. Just be an example. Speak of Christ in ways that they can relate to. Speak of how it has changed your life and how you view the world. Keep an eye toward the prize of them coming to Christ. Who knows? Your non-believer spouse may be the next champion of Christ in a mighty and powerful way when they finally do make the decision to accept Christ as their Savior and Lord. In all areas of life, we are right where God wants us for this moment in time and with the people that He has us with. It may be a painful time. It may be a time that seems like wasted time. It may be a time in which we are to learn patience and perseverance. It may be time that we are to learn the power of prayer. It may be a time in which we are to learn total dependence on God. This can be the purpose of the your marriage to your non-believer spouse. See your spouse as a child of God. See your spouse as made in the image of God. See that salvation is available to us all. Do not simply write off your spouse as being hopelessly lost. You have been placed in their lives for a reason by God almighty. We must seek unity in our marriage with non-believer not discord.

What then would be conditions in which we are to be set free from a marriage with a non-believer? I think Paul is pretty clear that we are to attempt to save our marriages, even to non-believers, at all costs. We are to seek reconciliation and unity with our spouses even if they are not believers. If the non-believer wants to end the marriage by leaving, then we should let them and we are released. We should try every way possible to make our marriages to non-believers work. It may involve temporary periods of separation but we should come at those periods of separation from the point of view that there will ultimately be reconciliation not divorce. To me the only ways that we are freed from a marriage to a non-believer is

  • if they are unwilling to reconcile and have already moved on to other relationships
  • or if to stay in the relationship we would have to deny our faith in Jesus Christ to make the marriage work.

In any other circumstances we are to be all-in in our marriages. Who knows? Like I said before, it may take 20 years but your non-believer spouse just might encounter Jesus Christ as their Savior because of your influence and presence in their lives. Who knows? Because of your long-suffering patience and influence, they might come to know Christ as their Savior and Lord and become a mighty, mighty warrior of God. Who knows? Pray without ceasing.

This passage is a tough one in today’s throwaway marriage world. Divorce has infiltrated the church just as much as has in general society. We are taught nowadays not to be patient. We are taught that love and passion are one and the same thing. We are taught that it is easier to throw away a marriage than it is to work at it. Christ followers have become very much like the world in this regard. From statistics I have read, the divorce rate among Christ followers is equal to the divorce rate in the general population. We must read this passage as Christ followers. We must end the passion is love thing and seek a spouse who matches our soul step for step and not confuse soulmate with someone who I just wanna have sex with every moment I can. Sexmates and soulmates are two different things. Soulmates are that one female for a man and that one male for a woman that gets you. The one that will love you through anything. The one that will be by your side even when you are at your worst. The one that will be there when the chips have fallen all around you. The one that you look at and see your complement. The one that matches you even without thoughts of physical pleasure. The one that 50 years from now when they pass away that half of you yourself dies. That is what we should look for in marriages. Sex is important to marriage don’t get me wrong but it should be the cherry on top of the sundae of marriage and not the whole reason for its being. If we are to have successful marriages, we should think long and hard before we marry. We must measure our future spouses by the qualities of Christians found in Galatians 5. If we spent as much energy on being discerning about who we marry as we do on getting divorced, maybe there would be more quality Christian marriages out there.

It is my prayer that if you are single, be discerning about who you are to marry. It is better to have a long singlehood than it is to have a divorce or multiple divorces. Pray for God to bring your a godly husband if you are a woman. If you are a man, pray for God to bring you a godly wife. Make sure. Be discerning. Marriage is a lifetime commitment and that’s a long time. Make sure. If you are already married and your spouse is not a believer, don’t look down on them. You were once a non-believer yourself. Be supportive. Live a life as an example. Pray fervently for ever how long it takes. Make the marriage work. However, do not deny Christ ever! If we spent more time thinking of God’s plan for our marriage to a non-believer than our own plans, we may see that God has us there to bring the world next greatest voice of God to Him through our influence. May we pray about it all always. Pray for marriage. Pray for our spouses. Pray pray pray.

1 Corinthians 7:1-40 — This is long passage with many things to write about. We will have to spend a few days here. The several things that we will talk about are first sexual relations between husbands and wives. The second thing will be about marriage to a husband or a wife who is not a believer. The final thing we will talk about is Paul’s point about whether it is best to be single or to be married.

Today let’s talk about 1 Corinthians 7:1-7. Let’s talk about sex! Let’s talk about sex and marriage! Christians in Corinth were surrounded by sexual temptation. The city was famous for sexual immorality and prostitution. It was this kind of society that Paul delivers these instructions on sex and marriage. The church at Corinth needed special, specific instructions because of their culture’s immoral standards. Some Greeks, in rejecting the immorality of the age rejected all things physical including sex. Sexual temptation is difficult to resist in that our sexual drive is a normal aspect of the desires that God gives us. Marriage provides God’s way to satisfy these natural sexual desires and to strengthen the partners against temptation. Married couples have the responsibility to care for each other; therefore, husbands and wives should not withhold themselves sexually from one another should fulfill each other’s needs and desires.

This is a difficult subject to write about. Often in marriage, we find that sex is one thing in marriage that can be misinterpreted, misapplied and cause us to miss what it should be about. As Paul writes this, you will note that he speaks about sex from the point of view of both husbands and wives. Sex is a two way street in marriage. Sexual relations between a husband and a wife should be mutually consenting sexual relations. Sexual relations between a husband and a wife should be for the mutual pleasure of both the woman and the man. Sexual relations should be intimate for the woman. She should feel loved and connected to her husband through sex. A man should be made to feel strong, verile, and manly through his intimate relations with his wife. Sex should accomplish these things for both the husband and the wife. Sexual relations should unite them into a singularity of two souls joined as one just as the marriage itself is supposed to be. Often we find that this is easy when we are just newly married. Sexual relations are easy and are an overflow of passion for one another.

Sexual relations within the confines of marriage are important. It is God ordained. It is God’s way that He has provided us to not only populate the earth but it is the method by which He intended us to grow in intimacy of the soul in marriage. This intimacy of the soul is an example to us of how we will feel in heaven when we are in the presence of God. Sexual relations in marriage is to unite souls with one another. It is not simply about the achievement of orgasm. It is about uniting husband and wife in a level of intimacy that is a reflection of the union of the trinity. Sexual relations in marriage are then to be not simply animalistic conquests, but rather expressions of love and unity. Therefore, our sexual relations should be mutually satisfying. For a woman it is often more the pure intimacy of the physical contact rather than the achievement of orgasm. The orgasm is a by-product of the intimacy she is having with her husband. For a man, the relations are about his wife demonstrating to him that “he’s still got it!” We are just little boys who need to know that we are the top of the heap. We need to know that our wives are just putty in our hands when it comes to sexual desire. There are many more aspects to sexual relations for men and women both but these are the main ideas and we, as men, must understand how our wives approach sex and wives must understand how men approach. We come at sex from different mindsets and we must understand each other’s basic approach to sex and satisfy that approach. Sexual relationship should be about the union of meeting one another’s needs.

Early in marriages, sex is easy. It is filled with desire. It is frequent. As we grow older in marriage and older in age, sex often becomes less frequent and less important. It is important for us to remember as we grow in our marriages that the animal passion will disappear, but that is replaced by real day to day love. We often mistake the loss of passion in a marriage as the loss of love. We are taught by media that love and passion are one and the same. This keeps the wheels turning in the divorce industry. This keeps the wheels turning in so many industries. We have bought into the fact that we must have that same animalistic passion for our spouse that we had when we first married. This is simply not true. Sexual passion at the peak of early marriage is simply untenable. High levels of performance are unique to specific periods of time. Constant sexual passion is the same way. It is after that high level of passion passes away that we find out what our marriages are truly made of.

Love is more than passion. Love is looking at your wife and feeling contentment in your soul for the normalcy that she brought to your life. Love is looking at your wife and imagining the horror of what life would be like had you not encountered her. Love is looking at your wife and simply enjoying being with her. My mother gave me advice many years ago that I should have followed in my life and did not until I married Elena. My mother said, “you need to marry a girl with whom you can be best friends outside the bedroom as much as you are best friends in the bedroom.” Make sure that you marry someone that you simply love being with. Let us be certain of the one that we marry is the one you can sit and watch TV together and feel like all is right with the world. Don’t marry someone for sex alone. Sex and love are two different things.

Don’t get me wrong sex is important in a marriage. The lack of sex can destroy a marriage more quickly than anything else. The lack of sex can lead to adultery and other sins. It is important. We must make sex a priority in our marriages by meeting the soul needs of our spouse in the bedroom, but let us keep in mind that sex is not the sole purpose of marriage. It is the crowning achievement of marriage. It is the example of intimacy that God wants us to have. Sex is a reflection of the soul unity that He wants us to have in our marriages. He wants it to be a symbol of intimacy of marriage. Meeting each other’s needs in the bedroom leads us toward meeting each other’s needs outside it. The closeness of sex leads us to the unity in all areas of marriage that God wants for us!