I’m deeply persuaded that when it comes to sex, we’ve gone culturally insane. The level of functional delusion, of self-deception and self-destruction that accompanies the way we approach sexuality is simply crazy. Young women attach their identity to how thin their nose is, how full their lips are, and the size of their breasts rather than quality of their character. Our heroes tend to be people who are young, rich and sexy rather than heroes in the classic sense of the word. We evaluate one another with terms like “hot” and “hunk” (they sound more like descriptions of chocolate). Pornography is not restricted to the dark hallways of rundown buildings, but exists on mainstream Internet sites, a Google click away from anyone with a computer.
Look around. Listen carefully. Take time to evaluate and consider. Examine the true desires of your own heart. We’re in trouble because what the human community tends to look at as normal isn’t normal at all. We’ve put sex in a place it was never intended to be, but we seem to fail to see the danger. There’s only one window through which we can look at the world of sex with candor, clarity and wisdom. This window is the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. And there is only one thing that can free us from the insanity that somehow, someway seems at some point to grip us all. It’s the grace of that very same Gospel.
In Search of a Savior
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’ll all look for it somewhere. Here’s the bottom line: Looking to creation to get what only the Creator can give you will always result in addiction of some kind. The thing that you hoped would serve you pulls you into its service. The thing you once desired, you’re now persuaded that you need, and once you’ve named it a need, it has you. What seemed like freedom ends up being bondage.
Sex is powerfully pleasurable, but it cannot satisfy your heart. The touch of another person will stimulate your body and your heart, but it will never leave you fulfilled. It’s a created thing that will give you a short-term buzz of euphoria. It will offer you temporary pleasure, provide a momentary sense of well-being, briefly make you feel that you’re something, and it may even make your problems seem not so bad for a bit. It’s all very intoxicating. It all feels great, so you go back again and again, and in so doing, you begin to travel down addiction’s road. The problem is that the created thing that you’re looking to wasn’t designed to satisfy your heart. It cannot give you inner peace. It cannot quiet your cravings. In a word, it cannot be your savior. And if you look outside of the Savior for something to be your savior, that thing will end up not being your savior but your master.
Here’s the problem. When God created the world, He dyed it with His glory. The created world really is glorious because God made it that way. But the created world is not in possession of ultimate glory, the kind of glory that can satisfy your heart. The glory of the created world is sign glory. All the glory of the created world is meant to be a sign that points us to the only glory that will ever give rest and peace to our hearts, the glory of God. We were designed to live for that glory. But we lose sight of the fact that the sign isn’t the thing; it is there to point us to the thing, and in forgetting this, we ask the sign to do for us what it cannot do.
In this way, life this side of eternity really is one big, unceasing glory battle. There could be no bigger issue than this, than what glory will rule your heart, and in ruling your heart, control your thoughts, desires, choices, words and behavior. Sinful human beings in functionally denying the existence of God will stop at the sign, won’t care about what the sign points them to, and will ask of the sign what it will never be able to give. And that created thing with all its glory will not be their savior; no, it will prove to be a cruel and inglorious master that takes much, but gives very little of what they were really seeking. Sex is glorious, but it was created to be a finger that points you to the one glory you were designed to live for, the glory of God.
It’s All Vertical
Our problem with sex will never be solved horizontally. Sex madness is not first a problem of situation, location or relationship. Sex problems are not first biology or physiology problems. Societal sex addiction doesn’t exist because the body is a problem. The fact that we are sexual beings is not the problem. Sex problems are not first the problem of modern media. It’s a matter of the heart. Our problems are deeply spiritual.
The apostle Paul says something very striking in 2 Corinthians 5:20. He says that God has called us to be ambassadors of one message. Twenty-four-seven we mustn’t forsake the diagnosis and cure of this solitary message. This message echoes God’s unceasing appeal. Here it is: “Be reconciled to God.” You see, it’s all vertical. The madness that we’ve briefly considered isn’t first horizontal, so it won’t be fixed horizontally. This insanity is vertical. It’s only when God is in His rightful place as the unchallenged Master of our hearts that everything else in our lives will be in their appropriate place as well. When something else replaces Him, insanity and chaos of some kind always result.
In ways that are formative and practical, we begin to serve the creation as we were designed to serve the Creator, no matter what we say we believe. But it never works; it only leaves us empty, driven and dissatisfied, the victims of our own bad choices. What we hoped would help us has in fact hooked us. And we cannot run from our problem, because the problem is us. It’s only when we live practically inside of what it means to be reconciled to God that we will hold the powerful glories of the created world in the way that they were designed to be held.
The humbling truth is that, when it comes to sex, we don’t have a thing problem. We are the problem It’s only ever the evil inside us that magnetizes us toward and connects us to the evil that’s outside of us. Since we are the problem, we really have a problem. We can run from a thing, we can change a relationship, we can move to a different location, but we can’t escape ourselves. No, we need rescue, and because we need rescue, we need a rescuer who is wise, powerful, willing and faithful. That rescuer is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is willing. He is wise. He is able, and He will not forsake us in our time of need.
Modified from Sex and Money by Paul David Tripp copyright 2013. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.