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Summary: Since the Church has too long tolerated the teaching of our culture on sexuality and sexuaol relationships, it's time to speak up about building quality relationships.

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“Building Quality Relationships: With Jesus – Develop Healthy Partners”

Eph. 5:3-8; 1 Cor. 6:9-20

Sometimes the words of Scripture hit me in the gut. In preparation for today’s message I was directed to such words, from Jesus Himself. In Rev. 2:19 Jesus commends the Church in Thyatira for her love, faith, service, and perseverance. But then, in verse 20, He throws His punch: “Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.” The church was tolerating the teaching of sexual immorality. Why did the punch land on my gut?

According to writer Rodney Joyce, "The United States remains the sexual superpower of the world, with Americans making love more often and with more partners than any other nationality, according to one survey.…Among other findings, the survey revealed that Americans were starting earlier than anyone else, at an average age of 16. Americans also had the highest average number of lifetime sex partners, at 14." (1) The church has too long tolerated the teaching of our culture on sexuality and sexual relationships. To preach a series on building quality relationships without addressing it is to continue the already condemned toleration. We must be concerned and outspoken about developing healthy, holy partnerships.

The two passages we just read contain much of the New Testament teaching concerning a proper view of sex and sexuality. The first directive is to AVOID UNHEALTHY PARTNERSHIPS. Four such partnerships are mentioned. First, avoid a partnership with IMMORALITY. The Bible makes it clear that sex, rightly understood, is healthy. It is, after all, God’s idea. The creation of Adam and Eve in Genesis 1 and 2 teach it: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it…A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh.” We are created as sexual beings; it’s part of God’s design. But like all of life, our sex life is to be disciplined. Just as we can misuse our spiritual gifts, or misuse our financial resources, we can misuse the gift of sexuality. THE PURPOSE OF SEX IS NOT PERSONAL SELF-EXPRESSION IN ORDER TO BE HAPPY BUT PERSONAL SELF-DONATION IN ORDER TO IMITATE GOD. Sex, as designed by God, always obligates us to the complete giving of ourselves. As Tim Keller put it, “Sex without the giving of oneself is a monstrosity, akin to walking around without a head.” (2)

A teen age boy asked his grandfather, “They didn’t have much trouble with sexually transmitted diseases when you were young, did they?” Grandfather said, “No.” The grandson asked, “Well, what did you use for safe sex?” Grandfather thoughtfully replied, “A wedding ring.” (3) That’s the meaning of Paul’s words in Ephesians. Sexually active ‘immorality’ refers to ANY KIND OF INTIMATE SEXUAL ENCOUNTER OUTSIDE THE BONDS OF MARRIAGE. (3) “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed…”

Paul tells us why. “…because these are improper for God’s holy people.” It is IMPROPER FOR GOD’S HOLY, SET APART, PEOPLE. To the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 4:3-5) Paul wrote “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.” Peter wrote (1 Pt. 1:14-15) “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” Such sexual conduct was one of the greatest virtues Christianity introduced into the culture. In describing the distinctiveness of the early church, one writer stated, “Pagans shared nothing but their wives. Christians on the other hand, shared everything but their wives.” (4)

Second, we are to avoid partnerships with COARSE TALKING AND JOKING. (4) “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place…” Obscenity means filth – pretty self- explanatory. And the word for ‘foolish talk’ comes from a Greek word, ‘morologia’, which means ‘moron talk.’ It covers the off color jokes, the suggestive humor, the crude sexual innuendos in speech and humor. Such repeated talk DESENSITIZES US TO THE SACREDNESS AND BEAUTY OF SEX. Would you, for example, ever tell a crude joke about communion – or baptism – or Jesus? Why then about the holy, sacred gift of sex?

Instead, says Paul, let us TALK WITH THANKSGIVING. Give thanks to God for the gift and beauty of sex. William Hogan put it well: “To joke about it is bound to degrade it; to thank God for it helps to preserve its worth as the blessing of the loving Creator…Just as speech that trivializes important things can cause us to take those things less seriously, so the giving of thanks can help us focus attention on God and keep things in better perspective.” (5) And research backs it up. According to a 2010 research study, delaying sex until after marriage improves the marital relationship. As reported in the Journal of Family Psychology (and later in the January 22, 2011, edition of The Economist), the study surveyed 2,035 married couples and asked them about their initial sexual experience together (before or after the wedding). Of the 2,035 couples, 336 couples reported waiting until they got married to have sex. The largest group of couples had sex within a few weeks of dating, and 126 couples had sex prior to dating. After analyzing the data, the three researchers concluded that waiting until after marriage improved the relationship (for both men and women) in four key areas: sexual quality, relationship communication, relationship satisfaction, and perceived relationship stability. The data showed that premarital sex doesn't necessarily doom the future marriage to failure. On the other hand, based on this research, there is no validity to the idea that premarital sex is needed to "test" and possibly improve the future marriage relationship. The authors stated that waiting until after the wedding day (what they call "commitment-based sexuality") "is more likely to create a sense of security and clarity between partners … about exclusivity and a future." (6)

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