Yesterday I listened to episode 1038 of Theology in the Raw: Good Sex, Bad Sex, and Marriage with Dr. Juli Slattery. The discussion Preston Sprinkle had with Dr. Slattery reminded me of a post I had written back in 2010. I thought this would be a good excuse to update it and repost it.
According to the Bible there are two ways we can live our lives. We can let our lives be guided by the flesh or we can let our lives be guided by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26).
In this passage we notice that the Apostle Paul made it clear that when our flesh is in control then sexual immorality will be a result. On the other hand, when the Holy Spirit is our guide, he will help us keep sex a scared part of our lives.
When the Bible talks about flesh, it is not just talking about our physical desires. Flesh is bigger than our bodies. It also encompasses the entire corrupted world system that we live under. This helps explain why sex seems to be everywhere, and this constant exposure to sex causes us to forget God’s intended sacred place for sex in our lives.
Sex, the way God designed it, is a wonderful blessing that brings intimacy and love into the covenant of marriage. When sex is brought outside of God’s design it becomes a source of complication and pain.
The writer of Hebrews wrote: Marriage is to be honored by all and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers (Hebrews 13:4; CSB).
If we are going to hold marriage in honor then we need to renew our thoughts and desires surrounding marriage and sex. This requires that we break from the accepted cultural standards of sex and return to God’s standards.
We cannot allow our flesh to guide our sexuality.
Our flesh firmly roots our lives into the things of this world. It causes us to crave things that are sensual, things that can be experienced by our five senses, and things that are self-centered.
Since the flesh is selfish, it will distort the cravings we have for the good things God has given. This leads to developing an unhealthy desire for God’s blessings. I think sex and food are two blessings God where we see this clearly happen. Our flesh gives us this selfish desire to consume and when we consume there are negative consequences to our bodies and souls.
The problem for you and me, even though we follow Jesus, is that we live in a world gone wrong, which means we are faced with the reality of a flesh dominated world system when it comes to sex.
It is impossible to live in the world and not be effected by this reality. Things as innocent as love songs, chick flicks, and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue to culturally accepted things like 50 Shades of Grey, steamy movies, homosexuality, and pornography to disturbing things like child pornography, bestiality, and sadism declare the terrible truth that the sexuality of our culture has gone terribly wrong. When left unchecked our flesh will take us to places we never intended to go.
This is why we can’t allow the flesh to lead any part of our lives, including our sexuality.
How do we break free from being led by the flesh?
The simple answer is that the Spirit must guide our lives. The apostle Paul wrote; I say, then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. (Galatians 5:16, 17; CSB). Paul is clear that if we don’t want to gratify the cravings of our flesh, then we need to let the Spirit guide our lives.
It is easy to say, “We need to let the Holy Spirit guide our lives,” but it is another thing to actually do it. Especially when we are unsure of what it takes to let the Spirit guide our lives.
When we read on in Galatians 5 we don’t find an explanation on how to be Spirit led. We do 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.
Since this is the case, let me offer three thoughts I have when it comes to being led by the Spirit.
First, it requires that we offer our lives to God. In Romans 12:1-2 we read; Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. (CSB). Through the act of sacrifice we acknowledge that our lives belong to God, and therefore they are to be lived by His will. We reject what our flesh desires and seek to do what God wills. 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.
On the other hand, when we truly offer our lives to God and let our minds be renewed by Scripture we are able to resist the pull of the world’s philosophies and teachings. Even though we stand in the midst of the world, God will give us a discerning heart to know right from wrong and truth from deception.
Not only do we need to give our lives to God, we also need to invite the Spirit into our hearts. Colossians 1:9-10 has become a favorite passage for me. The apostle Paul wrote; For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God (CSB). Here we find Paul praying that the Colossians will by led by spiritual wisdom and understanding. I think Christian leaders should pray this prayer for the people we lead. On the personal level, it is important that we ask God to fill us with knowledge, wisdom, and understanding needed to live lives that honor Christ Jesus. A life that honors Jesus is one that submits to God’s will in every area of our lives, including our sexuality.
Third, we need to love people. Remember I said that the flesh is selfish. It wants to consume and do what feels good. To combat selfishness we choose to love people. We ask God to give us eyes of compassion instead of eyes of lust and we choose to extend a helping hand rather than a groping hand. This is the way we discover that a meaningful life is greater than simply fulfilling our desires. Love helps us move past the idea that others exist for our enjoyment to understanding that others exist to honor 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 pleasure the flesh ends up destroying the gift. The Spirit leads us to place sex in a place of honor in our lives, and when sex is in its proper place we experience the enjoyment of sex the way God intended for us from the beginning.
This won’t happen magically and it won’t happen just because we get married. Experiencing sex as a blessing requires that we intentionally surrender our lives to Jesus by sacrificing 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 we live a Spirit-guided life.