1. Sex is God’s good creation.
God in his great wisdom, for his glory and our good, has chosen to place us in a world where sex is a significant part of the human experience. The issue of sex is important and unavoidable because God, in wisdom and love, chose it to be.
Because sex is the creation of God’s hand and exists under the control of his sovereignty, we should approach it with reverence and awe, not with embarrassment and timidity. Sex came from him, belongs to him, and continues to exist through him—to him be the glory.
2. Sex can be dangerous.
Sadly, today sex—a beautiful creation of God—functions in the surrounding culture like a spiritual solvent eating away at the very fabric of the human community. It has perverse power to master your heart and, in so doing, determine the direction of your life. It gives the buzz that you’re in control while, at the very same time, becoming the master that progressively chains you to its control. It offers you an inner sense of well-being while having no capacity whatsoever to satisfy your heart.
It seduces you with the prospect of contentment-producing pleasure but leaves you empty and craving more. Sex holds out the possibility that you will finally be satisfied but instead causes you to envy whoever has more and better than you do. It sells you the lie that physical pleasure is the pathway to spiritual peace. Sex is the work of the Creator’s hands but tends to promise you what only the Creator can deliver. It is beautiful in itself but has become distorted and dangerous by means of the fall.
3. Suffering will impact your sexuality.
If suffering is every person’s experience, then you should expect suffering to impact your sexuality. You will suffer the reality that right here, right now, sex doesn’t function the way that God intended. You will face the redefinition, distortion, and misuse of sex. You suffer the temptation to take your sexual life outside of God’s clear boundaries.
You will suffer being blindsided by sexual temptation at the mall, on your computer, when watching Netflix, or, sadly, even when you’re doing a Google search on your phone. You will suffer women exposing their bodies in public or men treating women like they’re little more than physical toys for their pleasure. You will suffer the hardship of trying to protect your children from all the sexual danger out there, while you work to keep your own heart pure.
Because you know of all the seductive temptations, you will suffer issues of trust with those you love. Some of us will suffer sexual abuse, and others of us will suffer the exhaustion that comes from trying to keep our hearts pure. You will suffer misunderstanding and mockery as you try to stay inside God’s boundaries in a culture that laughs at the thought of sexual boundaries. Paul assumes that we will suffer, and if he’s right (and he is), that suffering will include our sexuality.
4. Sex cannot satisfy your heart.
Sex is powerfully pleasurable, but it cannot satisfy your heart. The touch of another person stimulates your body and your heart, but it never leaves you fulfilled. Sex connects you in powerful and dramatic ways to another person, but it has no ability whatsoever to make you a better person.
Whether we know it or not, every human being lives in search of a savior. We are all propelled by a quest for identity, inner peace, and some kind of meaning and purpose. And we all look for it somewhere. Here’s the bottom line: looking to creation to get what only the Creator can give you always results in addiction of some kind. The thing you hoped would serve you pulls you into its service. What seemed like freedom ends up being bondage. The thing is not the problem; what you’ve asked of it is.
God’s creative intention was to bring glory to himself by the pleasures he created.
5. God is at the center of your sexual world.
Our problem with sex doesn’t begin with lust, with bad choices, or with sexual misbehavior. Our problem with sex begins when we forget that God must be at the center of this part of our lives as he must be with any other. When you have no greater motivation in sex than your own satisfaction, you are already in sexual trouble, even if you don’t know it yet. How have you tended to put yourself in the center of your world of sexuality?
Whether or not you functionally recognize it, at the epicenter of your sexual world exists a God of awesome power, glory, and grace. Sex in its rightful place in your heart and life always begins by recognizing that he is at the center.
6. Sex is deeply spiritual.
Sex is not an a-religious thing. Sex is deeply spiritual. Your relationship to your own sexuality and the sexuality of others always reveals your heart. Your sexual life is always an expression of what you truly worship. Sex is deeply religious. In sex you are either self-consciously submitting to God or setting yourself up as God. In other words, sex is never simply a horizontal thing. Sex always connects you to the God who created your body, gave you eyes to see and a heart that desires, and tells you how you are to steward this aspect of your personhood.
7. Sexual sin starts with your heart.
Here’s where the words of Christ drive us: our struggle with sexual sin is not first a struggle with the environment in which we live or with the people that we live near. Our struggle with sexual sin reveals the dark and needy condition of our hearts. We are our biggest problem.
When it comes to sexual sin, the greatest sexual danger to any human being anywhere lives inside him, not outside. Isolation, changes of location and relationship, and management of behavior never work because they don’t target the place where the problem exists—the heart.
8. Pleasure is God-glorifying.
God’s creative intention was to bring glory to himself by the pleasures he created. Each pleasurable thing was perfectly created and designed to reflect and point to the greater glory of the One who created it. These things were designed to be pleasure inducing but also for a deeply spiritual purpose.
They were meant to remind you of him. They were meant to amaze you not just with their existence but with the wisdom, power, and glory of the One who made them. They were put on earth to be one of God’s means of getting your attention and capturing your heart. The pleasure of sex is meant to remind me of the glory of my intimate union with Christ, which only grace could produce.
9. The pleasure of sex is no substitute for God’s grace.
It’s right to celebrate the goodness of God in giving you sweet pleasures to enjoy, and you should never feel guilty enjoying them as long as you do it within his boundaries and for his glory. It’s wonderful to celebrate the tasty pleasures of food, the stunning beauty of a fine piece of art, the sweet intimacy of sex, or the sound drama of a well-written piece of music. But as you’re celebrating pleasure, don’t forget to celebrate grace.
God’s grace has the power to protect you from asking of pleasure what you should not ask. God’s grace gives you the power to say no to the seductive call of pleasure when it is vital to say no. God’s grace offers you forgiveness when you have failed to do both these things. And God’s grace ushers you into the presence of the One who alone can give you the lasting satisfaction and joy that your heart seeks. So as you’re celebrating the physical pleasures of the created world, take time to celebrate the eternal pleasures of redemption.
10. Sex is intended to point us to God himself.
Since God created both you and sex, it is impossible to properly understand sex and participate in it appropriately if you are practically ignoring God and his existence. By means of creation you are his, and your sex life is his.
Sex that recognizes God’s existence becomes the beautiful, intimate, relational act of worship that it was intended to be. In the midst of all its physical delights, it does not forget God. It remembers that everything enlivened and enjoyed in sex belongs to him. It rests in his control and celebrates his care in the midst of the most intimate of human connections.
Paul David Tripp (DMin, Westminster Theological Seminary) is a pastor, author, and international conference speaker. He is also the president of Paul Tripp Ministries. He has written a number of popular books on Christian living, including What Did You Expect?, Dangerous Calling, Parenting, and New Morning Mercies. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife Luella and they have four grown children. For more information and resources, visit paultrippministries.org.