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About this series
Love Sex and Lasting Relationships
God's Prescription for Enhancing Your Love Life
Everyone desires to love and be loved. The pursuit of "true love" is everywhere you look! It's romanticized on TV and in the movies we watch. Countless books and songs are written about it and hundreds of online dating websites and relationship seminars abound - all of which are designed to "help" you find that special someone to love. So why is "true love" so elusive? Could it be that the picture of love we see in today's culture is nothing more than an illusion? If so, what does real love look like? In this series, you'll discover God's way for finding love, staying in love, and growing in intimacy for a lifetime.More from this series
When you hear the words love and sex in the same sentence, a lot of people think they are the same thing. But I am going to talk today about why knowing the difference makes all the difference in the world.
I have three specific stories I want to tell. I could tell a thousand of them, probably. The names would be changed, but they are true of younger people, and older people, and single people, and married people, and divorced people. But this confusion about love and sex keeps us from having the kind of love, the kind of sex, and the kinds of lasting relationships that God really wants.
The first two stories are going to be told through the eyes of counselors who interviewed these people: Les and Leslie Parrott. The others, through the eyes of another counselor named Paula Rinehart. And I share these in a way, because I want you to sit back and listen, not just with your mind, but with your heart, and listen to what happened in the lives of people who were confused about love, and sex, and how they go together.
Lauren and her boyfriend walked into their apartment during their college days, after studying. Mike nudged her as they walked in the door and said, “My roommate is gone for the weekend.” She barely got in the door and, in her words, couldn’t quite get her jacket off, and he began to kiss her, and tell her how wonderful, and gorgeous, and, “I love you so much, and I’ve just got to express that.”
And Lauren would later reveal that they had been dating for about four months. She believed in her heart that Mike really cared about her. They had shared some very, very deep things, and she knew that if she didn’t have sex soon, it would probably end the relationship, or so she believed.
Without much forethought, the nudge led her into the bedroom. And she didn’t plan on having sex that night, but she did.
And the moment that happened, the relationship completely changed. All she could think about was Mike. She was obsessed with him. She felt like she had crossed a barrier, and that there was a commitment at a level that she really wanted the relationship to be at. She loved him deeply. Every date after that involved sex.
And so much so that she decided that when summer break came, she would rearrange her schedule so that she could live close to Mike, so they could be together. She, as the counselor would explain, told him that, “I’ve changed my summer plans, and I’m going to be here, and we can be together all summer.”
And it was received with a cool withdrawal by Mike. We’ll will hear his story in just a minute. She was baffled. She “gave in,” loves him, makes a decision to want to be around him, and he begins to retreat. By the end of the spring semester, they broke up.
Now, Lauren’s story is very common. Only seventeen percent of women pre-decide when they are going to have sex. Eighty-seven percent say, “Well, it just happened.”
Well, lest we think Mike is the bad person, or in any way coerced his way into this situation, the counselors then sit down with Mike. And his side of the story is quite different.
He said, “You know, we’ve been together four months. I would never take advantage of a girl. I don’t believe in one-night stands. We shared everything together. She knew about the tragic break-up I had, cried with me, prayed with me, all the rest. Not only that, but I knew about the family situation, and the near borderline abusive situation with her dad.
“We had these hour-long make-out sessions that were marathon and wonderful. We’d lose track of time. I remember even one time,” he shares with the counselor, “that I teased about taking a bath together, and she kind of giggled. And all that flirtation, and all that time I just really believed that if you really love someone, and you want to express it, sex communicates in a way that words quite can’t.
“But then, when she changed her summer plans, it was like, Wow, she’s making this big commitment, and I felt smothered.” And that’s when the distance happened, and that’s when they broke up.
Paula is a counselor, and she’s going to interview two young women. And as you listen to the stories of these two young women, I want you to be thinking about your own history, and your own perspectives.
Paula is the counselor and says, “The woman listening to me, and whom I’m counseling right now, is slouched on my sofa. She’s a lovely woman, but her eyes are tired, and she’s depressed. I can hardly believe she’s only twenty years old. She says her life is not going well. She doesn’t want to be here, but she has to talk to someone. She says she has big questions about God, and,
yes, she is sleeping with her boyfriend, if you’re going to ask that.” And the counselor says, “She looked at me like that was such a dumb question.
“And so, I asked her about her depression, and then I asked her a little bit about her history. And her countenance changed, and she began to recite for me her journey, how, about five years ago, she just decided she wanted to get her virginity over with. And so, she found a guy that she didn’t have any close feelings for, wanted to get her virginity over with so she, in her words, ‘could have sex with guys that she really cared about.’”
The counselor, Paula, scratched her head and says, “That’s a logic I’m not familiar with, but,” she says, “one common in our day. The rite of passage for young women is – the happy people, the action people – is when you have sex.”
The next woman in the counseling is thirty years old – completely different story. She is attractive, two kids, married, attractive husband, good jobs. She just has one small – actually, big problem. She hates sex. It’s boring. It’s distasteful.
The counselor asked her, “Tell me a little bit about your journey and your history, and where did this attitude come from?” And she said, “Well, when I was sixteen, in high school, I had sex for the first time, and, since that time, before I met my husband, I’m not sure, maybe ten other men or so.”
The counselor listens, and she [the woman] says, “I don’t get it. Help me. My husband – we argue all the time. I’m disinterested. We have great kids, we have a great life, I have a good job, things are going well, but this area is killing our marriage. Help me!”
And so the counselor asked a very penetrating question. She quietly whispered, “Can you picture what it would have felt like to be really cherished by a man? To be so special to him that he wanted to protect your innocence? Can you sense what it would mean to be valued by that man that much?”
The young, attractive, thirty-year-old woman, who had never made any connection about her past promiscuity and her present problem with sex in marriage, had the alignment of an “ah-ha” in her mind and heart. She sat quietly and didn’t say anything, but as that “ah-ha” occurred, tears began to roll down her cheeks, as, for the first time, she realized her past is now informing her present.
Lauren’s message is, “I love him, and if we don’t have sex, I’ll lose his love.” That’s the message. The truth is, unplanned sex may feel right at the time, but it almost always ushers in the end of the relationship.
Mike’s message is, “If we really love each other, how can it be wrong? I’m just expressing what I really feel!” The truth is, love means a total commitment, not a strong emotional feeling. When physical intimacy exceeds genuine commitment, the relationship shatters, because one has given all, and the other is holding back.
Paula’s story is, “I need to get sex over with. I just want to get the rite of passage. And then, what I do in the past – whether I’m young, at twenty, or thirty – has nothing to do with the future. It’s just the way life is.” And the truth is, promiscuity causes you to begin to hate yourself, doubt yourself. It positions you where your capacity for intimacy, which is the goal from God, gets diminished and diminished and diminished.
Sex with multiple partners is like two pieces of cardboard being glued together and then ripped apart. And when you rip them apart, there’s a little piece of this cardboard over here, and a little piece over here. And when it happens over and over and over and over, it creates baggage that God never intended.
God is the most pro-sex Being in all the world. Are you ready for this? He created it. It’s a gift. It’s beautiful.
When we fail to understand the difference between love and sex, we are doomed to failure in both our relationships and our sexuality. If you don’t get clear – as a married person, as a single person, as a divorced person, as a teenager – if you don’t get clear on, This is sex, this is what it’s about – understand it clearly – this is love, and this is what real love is about, and this is how and when they fit together – if that is confused, you’ll not only have bad relationships, you’ll have bad sex.
So, let’s go to the Author of sex. As you open those notes, what does it say? At the very top. “A word from God about sex.” If we could just open up heaven and say, “God, there’s sex everywhere. There are commercials everywhere. We are bombarded in a world – sex, sex, sex, sex, sex! Would You please give us Your word on sex, since You created it?”
And to do what, we’re going to be in Ephesians chapters 4 and 5. And so, if you will, open your Bibles – or mobile device, whatever you’re using – and let me give you a little historical background, because the danger, if you’re like me – and I didn’t grow up as a Christian. I never opened the Bible.
I had views about the Bible that were like this: How could that old Book know anything about sex? Are you kidding me? Or, Isn’t the Bible about people that are really prudish, and don’t know much about sex? And, We’re modern, and we’re with it, and we’re hip, and all that old stuff.
Let me give you the history of when this was written. Paul is writing to the Ephesians. The main temple there was called the Temple of Diana, or the Temple of Love. Sex was available 24/7, any way that you wanted it. In fact, the ancients would say that Christianity introduced a new virtue, uncommon in the day. It was the virtue of sexual purity, or chastity.
If you were a Roman or a Greek man in this culture, you were expected to have a wife to bear your children. You were expected to have a mistress to fulfill you whenever you wanted. You were expected to go to a temple – and the temples had prostitutes: male prostitutes, female prostitutes. You could have homosexual sex, heterosexual sex.
And, often, you would have a slave girl, and she understood that her role was not only to do whatever you said, and help around the house, but sexual favors. She was a slave. She was a piece of property.
The Liberator of women was Jesus. Jesus said, “You are coheirs with the grace of God.” Jesus said, “You have value.” Women were exploited, used, abused, a piece of property. And Jesus comes.
And then, the apostle Paul is writing the most counterintuitive message that has ever been heard of in the day. And he talks about the role of a woman, and the role of a man, and the role of sex, and the role of love. And what he is going to say is, “You need to walk in love.”
Notice the context. Chapter 4, if you’re looking in your Bible – you can see that in chapter 4, verse 1, it opens up, and it talks – the metaphor for walking is, basically, how to live. Step-by-step, here’s how you live. And so, verse 1, it says we are to walk in unity. That’s good.
Skip down to verse 17. We’re to walk in holiness. We’re to be separate, we’re to be pure, in our thoughts, and our minds, and our actions. And then, in chapter 5, verse 1, we’re to walk in love. But let’s get a little bit of a runway. Let’s get a little bit of a runway of, what does he say?
I put it in your notes – verse 30 of chapter 4. It says, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Circle the word grieve in your notes.
I think we have fallen into a bad theology of thinking, somehow, that God is “the force,” some impersonal force that gives us rules, and guidelines, and we’re supposed to live by them. He is one essence and Being, in three persons. He’s a person.
Grief means making someone sad, disappointing them, breaking their heart. The commandment is, talking all about relationships, is, “Don’t break the Holy Spirit’s heart, because He has sealed you. He loved you. He has the best for you, this day of redemption.”
And then, he says how not to do that: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” I could define all those words, but, basically, all those words are dissing people, disrespecting people, hurting people – verbal actions and attitudes that make relationships bad.
Verse 32 says, “Instead, be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another” – how? – “just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Underline the word kind. Underline the word tender-hearted. Underline the word forgiving. He says, “This is how relationships work.”
Don’t all of us want to have a relationship with the opposite sex where they’re kind to us, and we’re kind to them? Don’t we want to be tender-hearted, and, instead of having expectations, and “they ought,” or “they should,” you really understand where they’re coming from, and where they’ve been?
And when they blow it, or when we blow it, don’t we want to have relationships where someone says, “I’m willing to forgive you for what you said. I’m willing to forgive you for what you’ve done, the way God has forgiven me.”
So, now, we get the command. The command in verse 1 is to “walk in love.” This is how relationships work. So, we have to understand, So, what does it mean to love? We’re never going to understand the difference between sex and love, if we can’t define, clearly, So, what does it mean to walk in love?
Well, positively, it means to be giving, caring, sacrificial, and unselfish toward others. Can we all agree on that? You’re loving when you care for someone, right? You’re giving. It costs you something. It’s sacrificial. We gave a definition in our last time that love is giving another person what they need the most, when they deserve it the least, at great personal cost.
So, yes, we have feelings, and we have emotions, and they’re wonderful, and they go up, and they go down. But love is different from that. Love is a commitment. It’s loyalty. It’s caring. It’s giving. It’s paying a price. It says, “I want what’s best for you, even if it’s difficult for me.”
And it says, “Walk in love.” In other words, it’s a process. It means, when you learn to walk, what do you do? You fall down. You’re going to mess up. But he says, “Therefore be imitators of God.”
You want to learn how to walk in love? Write, above that word imitators – remember this word? M-I-M-I-C. Mimic. Literally, he’s saying, “You want to learn to walk in love? Well, just mimic God, as a dearly, or deeply loved child; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you.” And he gives us this example of, “He gave Himself up for us, an offering, a sacrifice, as God’s fragrant aroma.” And so, you just have those characteristics that make relationships deep, and wonderful, and good.
Now what he’s going to do is something that, if I didn’t know this passage, I would not have thought what we’re going to read next would have anything to do with love. But he’s writing to a society that’s just inundated with sex, everywhere. And he’s watching it destroy relationships.
It’s destroying the relationships of the teenagers in Ephesus as they grow up in this world. It’s destroying the relationships of people who are married, as love and sex get confused. Can you imagine being a woman in that day, and your husband leaves, and you’ve given him two children, and they bear his name and yours, and then he goes to have sex with this person, and sex with that person? And it’s just expected. And, pretty soon, you feel used and abused.
And so, the apostle Paul is going to say, “Real love is giving, caring, sacrificial, and being unselfish toward other people.” That’s the positive view. Now he’s going to say, “Let me show you the opposite of walking in love. This is not walking in love.” Verses 1 and 2, positive; verses 3 and 4, the negative.
So, look at it, negatively, it’s to refuse to take, exploit, cheapen, defraud, or substitute sexual activity for genuine love, and authentic intimacy. In other words, the opposite of loving is taking, lusting, exploiting, to cheapen. It means to defraud. I get what I want, sexually. I don’t care about you. I’m going to satisfy me. It’s substituting sexual activity.
Yes, when people have sex, and bodies come together, there’s this intimacy, this bond that occurs, whether you know the person or not. The Scripture would say that even when a man has sex with a prostitute, he becomes one with her. God designed sex to bond you to that person. It helps sustain the relationship over hard times.
But he says that when you rip it apart, and you rip it apart, and you rip it apart, it creates pieces, and baggage, and pain, and people feel rejected, and used, and exploited, and cheapened.
And so, now, he gives us a command. The one command was, “Walk in love.” Now, notice this command – verse 3: “But do not let immorality or impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among the saints.” He goes on to say, “And no filthiness or silly talk or coarse jesting, but rather the giving of thanks.” So, he says, “Walk in love, but, by contrast, let me tell you what’s not loving.”
Let’s walk through these words very, very carefully. If you have a pen, you might jot down. He’s going to start, and he’s going to say, “But let no immorality” – write the word porn above that. The Greek word is porneia.
Porneia is the most general word for sexual immorality in the New Testament. Porneia would include adultery – that’s having sex, when you’re married, with someone other than your mate – fornication – that’s, when you’re not married, having sex with someone else – homosexuality – that’s having sex with someone of the same sex – sexual addiction – multiple other perversions. It is, in thought, word, or deed, anything other than one man, one woman, in a monogamous relationship to express love to one another, he says is porneia.
And in case you, it’s like the lens. That’s the big picture. And then, the lens tightens, and he goes, “Now, let me clarify what this really includes.” “Let no immorality or” – notice – “any impurity …” This is a word that has the idea of any sexual indulgence at the cost of another.
You log on to porn sites and this is what it does to your marriage. You flirt with this person at work, this is what it does to your marriage. You flirt, and act like, and fondle another person, and excite them sexually, but can’t fulfill it in a righteous way. Anything, any impurity.
And then, finally, he goes on, “… or greed.” And the context here is sexual. We think of greed about money. This is about sexual greed. This is about satisfying your lusts.
If you’ve done any research about sexual addictions, they’re just like drug addictions. When you start, and do drugs – and I’ve been around a world with lots of people who have done drugs, and they will all tell you, “When I started, all I needed was – I took a little hit, and, man, I got a buzz that was crazy. But that same little hit, over time, didn’t give me the same buzz, so I had to take more, or different drugs. And I kept going, going, going, going.” The same is true for sexual addictions.
The reason it’s more and more and more dark, and perverted, and weird is because the same chemicals in your brain that bring pleasure, you need a bigger and bigger hit.
And so, what he’s saying is, it is not loving to be immoral. It’s not loving to use people. It’s not loving, whether it is in your mind, or words. This first section is, “All immoral, sexual, perverted behavior – it’s not loving.” That’s his point.
And unless we think it’s just in a lifestyle – “We have good feelings, and we’re living together” – he goes on to say – what? “No filthiness or silly talk or coarse jesting.” He moves from behavior to your speech, and your attitudes.
Filthiness has to do with obscenities, or coarse joking. It’s the dirty talk, the dirty joke, the coarse jesting, the innuendo.
If you have ever been around people who are looking for acceptance, especially comics. if you ever watch, maybe, Comedy Central, and there’s someone there who has some really good, clean jokes – it’s hard to find, but there are a few.
When a comic, late-night person, or some of the most famous comics are stuck, and a crowd is not responding, what do they always do? Where can you always get a laugh? Sexual innuendo. And some comics, that’s all it is. It’s prohibited.
Now, by the way, so often people thought about this, Oh, God’s a prude, and He doesn’t want to do these things. Here’s the context. No, no, no, no. Those things reduce your capacity. They cheapen things. They destroy things. Sex is over here, in love and commitment.
In other words, most of us would be pretty upset if we saw a beautiful meadow, a great stream, salmon, wonderful trees, absolutely pristine, and someone pulled a big truck into it, and it had poison in it, and just started pouring it into the stream, and then took three loads of garbage and – Ern! Ern! Ern! – and then they drove off. You’d be ticked off, wouldn’t you? You’re destroying something beautiful!
That’s the apostle Paul’s point. He said, “This isn’t about restrictions. This is, you don’t understand what love is. You’ve mixed them together.”
So often, relationships that are talking about love, it’s self-indulgent; it’s all about you. It’s using. It’s exploiting. You live together, and then you move out, and then what’s she going to do? Over half the women who get divorced live under the poverty level.
Paul is saying, “Love means you really are committed, and you care.” So, sexual immorality violates that, and that’s why he says, “Don’t settle for second best.”