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About this series
Taught by Chip's son, Ryan Ingram, Relational Intelligence gives us a clear understanding of what it takes to develop intimate, life-giving, character-shaping relationships where people share a rugged commitment to one another for the long-haul. Ryan exposes the flaws in relational thinking that result in broken, disillusioned lives. He provides alternative, biblical insight into how healthy, mature, and fun relationships can be nurtured and enjoyed.More from this series
We started off saying in week one, talking about relational intelligence that it’s the skill of navigating relationships well. It’s the wisdom of God who created and designed us of how to navigate and go about relationships well.
And we said this: that it’s both counterintuitive and counterculture. Oftentimes, relational wisdom, relational intelligence is counterintuitive and countercultural. We are wading into perhaps the most countercultural, counterintuitive subject, relationally for us, today.
I think, unfortunately, the Church hasn’t always done a good job in communicating God’s wisdom when it comes to our sexuality and our design. And I recognize also that for many, as we talk about this, that this is a deeply personal, incredibly for some, painful, difficult, emotional wounds and even confusion as we talk about this.
As I’ve been thinking about this and wrestling with, okay, how do we begin this conversation, I want to begin here, it’s not the place I want to start, actually. But I think it’s the place culturally where I have to start.
Because I want us to just talk as a collective, as just people learning how to follow and walk in the ways of Jesus. But I believe the Church, the capital “C” Church, the Bride of Christ, unfortunately in our day has all too often become known for what we are against than what we are for.
And when it has come to marriage and sexuality, the Church has lost its influence. And part of the reason why is the capital “C” Church in America has tried to hold the world to conformity while not holding itself accountable.
Now, here’s what’s amazing, now think about this, this is so incredible. In John’s gospel, when he is trying to unpack for us who Jesus is, he is trying to help us understand: who is this Messiah? He says this. He says, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us and we have seen His glory.” Like, we beheld the glory of the One and only.
And then it says this line, “Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus is the fullness of both. He is not all grace and He is not all truth, but embodied in the Son of God is the fullness of grace and truth.
See, grace is just, you come as you are, you stay where you are. I have news for you: Jesus says, “Come as you are, but I want to change you. I want to transform you. I want to see a metamorphosis in you.”
And He’s not all truth either. It’s not: you just have to fix up your life and do better. He was grace embodied. And so, He hung out with all the “wrong” people. He died on the cross for “all the wrong people.” He had a reputation for hanging out with tax collectors and sinners and prostitutes and the like.
And here’s what’s so amazing about Jesus: people who were nothing like Jesus really liked Jesus, really enjoyed hanging out with Jesus. They were drawn to Him. All the “wrong” people were drawn to Him. What’s fascinating is all the religious people were repelled by Him.
He was the fullness of grace and truth. And if you read the gospels carefully, what you’ll find is when He came to someone who was far from God, He always led with grace and then followed with truth.
He always led with compassion and then He followed with clarity. And then if you read it carefully, all the religious people, all the Pharisees, He reversed it. He led with truth and as they responded to the truth, He followed with grace.
Unfortunately for us as the Church, when it comes to this area, the Church has really led with truth for those who are far away from God and never gotten around to grace.
And so, the capital “C” Church has unfortunately said to a people that Jesus died for, came for, that they are not welcomed or loved.
And so, if you’re in the LGBT community here, I want to say that you’re welcomed and loved in the name of Jesus. I believe the Church should be the safest place to wrestle with questions that we, the Church, need to be known for how we love.
I believe loving the way Jesus loves is incredibly messy. It’s not clear, it’s not so boxed in the way we like it.
And I believe when someone experiences the love of Jesus, they are changed by Him. And so, my prayer for us as a church, is that we will be a church full of grace and truth.
And, yes, we at Awakening hold to an historic, orthodox, Christian view of marriage and sexuality as expressed in the New Testament, that marriage is a covenant commitment between one man and one woman for life. And our sexuality is designed to be expressed only within that covenant commitment.
And here’s what we believe: followers of Jesus, we are to bring our lives into obedience with that truth. And so, the question before us this morning, is: how are followers of Jesus to go about relationships in a sexually confusing world? This isn’t how everybody else is. And for many, you’re going, If that’s what it means to follow Jesus, I might not follow Jesus after this, okay? How are followers of Jesus to go about relationships in a sexually complex, confusing world?
The mantra, when it comes to our sexuality today is: it is just, physical. Listen, you have to test drive the car before you buy. “I’ve got to find someone who is sexually compatible, Ryan.” Fifty-two percent of singles have had a one-night stand. Forty-one percent of singles, according to, yes, this is singlesinamerica.com, and it is a legitimate research that they have done, by the way. Forty-one percent of singles have had an FWB, which I found out was friends with benefits.
However, thirty-two percent of singles agree you have to be in love to have great sex. And eighty-four percent say sex is better when you are in love. How are followers of Jesus to go about relationships in these sexually confusing times?
Well, America’s sexual ethic is saying this. It’s simple but it is profound, and it is adopted not just by the culture, but it’s adopted by followers of Jesus. My body; my rules. It’s my body. I have the right to do with my body whatever I want. I make the rules. It’s my body and so they – and it is then my rules.
And the underlying belief under this says: you are a sexual being with cravings, appetites, and desires. You have the right to fulfill that appetite with whomever you wish, however you wish, and whenever you wish as long as it is consensual.
America’s sexual ethic: my body, my rules. You are this sexual being that has these cravings and appetites and desires, just like any other appetite or craving. And so, you have the right.
No, in fact, it would go one step further than that. It would say: to restrict one’s appetite is both closed-minded and ignorant. You have the right with whomever you wish, however you wish.
Now, C.S. Lewis actually wrote and spoke into this so poignantly over fifty years ago, seventy years ago now, actually almost. He says this, “Like all powerful lies, it is based on a truth. Sex in itself is normal and healthy. The lie consists in the suggestion that any sexual act to which you are tempted at the moment is also healthy and normal.”
What if we just simply applied our sexual ethic and presupposition and beliefs about them being cravings connected to our other cravings and appetites and desires?
One, sex is not of base or core need. Let’s just get that straight. I know some of you don’t think that’s true, but if you don’t have water or food, you’ll die. If you don’t have sex, you will not die.
Now, let’s just apply this to our other appetite, food, for example. With food, I have the right to fulfill that appetite whenever, however I wish as long as it’s consensual. That doesn’t really make sense with the food. And to restrict that appetite is closed-minded and oppressive.
Here’s what’s funny about our food, isn’t it? Too many of you are gluten free to adopt that or, right? Hey, no, I’m restricting carbs, clean eating, organic, naturally sourced. When it comes to our food, we are intentionally focused, restricting, knowing that – yeah – I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want. However, it has a drastic impact on my health. And we apply that same principle to our sexuality.
Let me dive a little bit deeper. Because “it’s just physical” is the mantra of our world. If it’s just physical, why is there so much shame for those who have been sexually abused? If it’s just physical. Did you know thirty percent of all women report their first sexual experience was not voluntary?
Forty percent of girls’, under the age of fifteen, first sexual experience was not voluntary and unwanted. Twenty percent of college women report to being to be forced to have sex against their will. And if it’s just physical, why is it that a woman is way more likely to report being mugged than being raped or molested?
If it’s just physical, why is it that sexually active teens are three times more likely to be depressed than those who abstain?
You see, our sexual ethic of the day is undermining the desires and the core of who we are made to be. See, sex and sexuality has shifted from a physical expression of love and intimacy to that of experiencing personal fulfillment.
The result is we live in a society that is saturated with sex, yet starving for intimacy. The old adage is more true today than it has ever been: it is easier to find a lover than a friend. And the root issue is we have compartmentalized our sexuality and our spirituality.
You, just take this in, you are sexual and spiritual at the same time. The gospel says that your sexuality and gender is important but it’s not the most important thing about you.
In fact, in an identity dysphoric culture, as we have attached ultimate value, meaning, personhood to our sexuality, the gospel speaks loudly into this and says: No, no, no, no. Your identity in Jesus Christ is the most important thing about you.
And so, we have to once again marry sexuality and spirituality. Why? God invented it. Some of you are like, God’s a prude. No! He’s the One that invented it. It was His idea. So guess what, He has the best thoughts and wisdom in how we are to express our sexuality.
And so, how do we reintegrate our sexuality and our spirituality? How do we marry these once more as a people to become whole, to experience life in this area?
What’s amazing is the apostle Paul spoke to this issue almost two thousand years ago. In fact, as we read it today, you would think he’s writing to us and yet he’s writing to this church in Corinth.
And it’s actually, they are dealing and wrestling with the same things we are today. It’s funny, in our modern arrogance, we think we are so progressive and advanced and yet the mantra “it’s just physical” has been around for thousands of years.
If you’ve got your Bible, would you open up to 1 Corinthians chapter 6? 1 Corinthians chapter 6, verse 12. And here’s what the apostle Paul is going to do. He’s going to start with the philosophical assumptions of the day of the city, then he is going to move and he’s just going to apply logic. It’s not even something that is really deep and profound, logically, you’ll look at that and go, “Yeah, that’s true.”
Then he’s going to move to theologically, why we have to once again marry spirituality and our sexuality together. And then he’s going to bring it home real practically for us. So let’s start philosophically or logically, if you will, marrying sexuality and spirituality. Here’s what he says, and he’s going to give us.
He’s going to say, “The right to do whatever you want doesn’t make whatever you want right.” The right to do whatever you want doesn’t make whatever you want right. Notice what he says, “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say,” it was the philosophy of the day. It was the philosophy of Corinth. “I have the right to do anything.” Doesn’t that sound American to you?
I have the right to do anything. I can sleep with whoever I want, whenever I want, however I want. Don’t you dare tell me. “‘I have the right to do anything I want,’ you say,” now notice this, “but not everything is,” and would you say this with me, “beneficial.” Yeah. I can eat whatever I want, but not all that I eat is beneficial. We get that. The right to do whatever I want does not make whatever I want right or good or beneficial.
And here’s what we have done. We think the question is: do I have the right to? The apostle Paul says, “No, no, no, the question is: is it beneficial?” Some of you are going, Well, I want to demand my rights! Fantastic. You have the right to do it. We live in America. You’re free. The question isn’t: do you have the right? The question: is it good? Is it beneficial? Is it helpful?
Did you know the research says, you can argue with the research, abstaining from sex before marriage yields to the highest rates of fidelity in marriage as well as the highest overall sexual satisfaction. Did you know that those married, on average, have more sex than those who are single as well as more adventurous sex with their partners?
There’s this lie that married sex is boring. Newsflash, I just, well, I’m just talking about mine, it’s not! You’re like, “Please don’t. Please don’t.” Did you know living together or cohabitating leads to fifty percent more likelihood of divorce than not? You have the right to do whatever you want. But it doesn’t make whatever you want right or good or beneficial. The question isn’t: do I have the right? The question: is it beneficial?
Would you begin to ask a better question for your life? A better question for your sexuality? Then he goes on and he’s going to move from our rights then to an idea about freedom. Now, here’s what he’s going to say. He’s going to say: self-control, not self-indulgence is a mark of freedom. Self-control, not self-indulgence is a mark of freedom.
Notice what he says, “I have the right to do anything,” he goes back to their mantra: it’s just physical. I can do whatever I want. Now, notice this, “But I will not be mastered by anything. You say ‘Food for the stomach and stomach for the food, and God will destroy them both.’” You notice they are making the same argument of cravings and appetites saying, “It’s just an appetite to be fulfilled.”
In our culture we have redefined freedom as the ability to say “yes” to whatever we want, whenever we want – what we desire in t he moment. And, however, self-control, not self-indulgence is a mark of freedom. See, when I have the ability to say “no” I am not mastered by anything.
Let’s stick with the food illustration. We’ll take sugar for example. If I cannot say “no” to sugar, then I am not free from sugar, I am mastered by sugar. I can spin it to say I am free to eat all the sugar I want. But the truth is, I am not free at all, because I cannot say no. That is what we have done with sexuality. That is what we have done in our culture today.
I’m free to look at all the pornography that I want! No, you’re not. You’re not free to do otherwise. I’m free to sleep with whoever I want, whenever I want. No, you’re not. Because I, listen, as a pastor, and I’ve been – I’m going on almost two decades of pastoring. I’ve had so many heartfelt, painful conversations with people who are hooked and stuck in slavery to their sexuality, to pornography that they long for that freedom and they are not able to say no. And Paul says self-control, the ability to say “no,” not self-indulgence, is a mark of freedom.