Holy and Healthy Sex in Marriage: Part 3

David Wever

Sex was good from the beginning. And it is still good for one reason: Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus Christ, you and I can be redeemed from our sexual sin, and, believe it or not, restored to enjoy sex in a way we have never imagined. We definitely know how sex can be misused. We have seen both its sinful use and the consequences. For men who have been wounded sexually, and who have sexually transgressed for years, to know there is hope for sex renewed and a paradigm to hold onto is vital. This new hope and paradigm is found in Jesus. We talked last month about God’s initial design for sex and some of the effects of sin upon that design. Now let’s look at four basic principles for renewed and reclaimed sexual intimacy for our marriages.

First, due to the Fall, there was no equal-ness between Adam and Eve. Suddenly they were polar opposites. This unequal-ness ushered in an ability to objectify one another. The advent of sexual sin turned compassion and concern for our spouse to objectification. This objectification damages the equality in the relationship ultimately hindering true intimacy. That equality is renewed in the marriage bed through Christ Jesus. In Galatians 3:28 Paul writes, There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.’ It is because of Christ we can see our wives differently. Not in an objectified way but with eyes from our heart that see their true value.

Second, false intimacy often results from our sexual sin. This false intimacy keeps us from truly being known by our spouse. It many respects we stay hidden in the bushes or behind fig leaves due to our shame from our sin. The good news is that Jesus has also taken our fig leaves away. We need not be naked any longer. In Christ Jesus, we have new clothes. Galatians 3:27 says it all, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.’ We have a whole new wardrobe that does not have as some of its acumens: shame, fear and nakedness. Although we may fear this new nakedness of being truly known, we can trust that because of Jesus, we have a whole new wardrobe in our identity in Christ Jesus.

Third, one of the most comforting aspects of our sexuality being restored and reclaimed in Christ Jesus is that we have a restored covenant relationship with God. In Ezekiel 16:8 God says, ‘Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine.’ This same restoration is needed for healthy sexual intimacy with our wives as well. We have to re-pledge our fidelity to our wives just as God has done the same to us through Jesus Christ.

Fourth, this new paradigm around our sexual intimacy being restored can be held and acknowledged by us. No need to fear that this cannot happen. Now some of this healing may happen over time and our wives may heal at a different rate than we do. But, it can be held by your heart due to Christ’s death and resurrection justifying who you are. The Message says it well, ‘Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom. A number of you know from experience what I’m talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list. Since then, you’ve been cleaned up and given a fresh start by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit.’ Take a few minutes and meditate on this passage. Do you truly believe you are no longer on that ‘list’? In Christ Jesus you are no longer on that list. It is true, and this truth will be foundational to you living in true intimacy within your marriage and marriage bed from a renewed heart.

Jesus has truly changed our lives forever. And because of him our sexual intimacy and marriage bed can be restored as well. 

Reality Sets In

Wes Mason

This past weekend I helped teach junior high boys at our church’s Disciple Now weekend. The group was made up of kids of all shapes, sizes, and levels of maturity, but all sharing the awkwardness common to the age and matching bright yellow t-shirts that bore the retreat’s theme in big, black letters across the chest: Reality Sets In. These young men were challenged to respond to the reality that they needed God in their lives. For many of them this reality apparently did set in, as several of them accepted Christ during the retreat.

As the retreat progressed my thoughts strayed to another group of men more than a thousand miles away. At that same time 74 men were gathered in the Washington, DC area for our monthly Every Man’s Battle workshop, having traveled from more than a dozen states and as far away as France and Russia. It occurred to me that some of these men may have also made their decision to accept Christ way back in junior high, just like these retreat kids. But now they were challenged to respond to a new reality they were facing. It was a sobering thought. These young guys at a retreat in Melissa, Texas have no idea the kinds of struggles that may be headed their way in the years ahead; these men in Washington probably could not have imagined when they first became a believer that years or decades later they would become so ensnared by sexual temptation.

When it comes to sexual temptation, there isn’t just one reality that sets in, but a series of them; in the workshop we call them crises of truth. As a man moves down the path from small-scale flirtation with sexual temptation to sexual addiction, these realities get more difficult to face; the consequences become less controllable. In this way sexual addiction is like cancer. Most are not terminal, and even the bad ones can often be conquered or managed if caught early enough. If left too long without attention, however, the options to control the outcome become more limited.

So, what do you do when you’re finally serious about working on your sexual integrity and then discover that there are consequences to your past actions that don’t easily erase? Maybe you’ve done all the right things: surrendered, disclosed, gotten into a program, taken actions to make amends, and gotten an accountability partner. You felt the freedom that comes from finally seeing the burden of your secrets lifted. You had reached the darkness at the bottom and are on your way up and out. Unlike your failed attempts in the past, which had an action plan consisting of willpower alone, this time you’re taking this seriously and you’re finding success. Nice feeling.

But it’s at this point, when the battle’s momentum seems to finally be turning your way, that you may face one of the most difficult realities and least nice feelings of all: the consequences of that past behavior. Sexual sin damages relationships most of all, so it is not surprising that relationship repair is one of the most difficult steps in the road to recovery. How do you face this reality and repair the damage to these relationships? Here are some ideas on how to start with the two most affected relationships a man in this situation faces: with God, and with his wife

Relationship to God: We are fortunate that God has a long history of restoring broken relationships. He is well-practiced at it after interacting with us over an entire human history filled with our failings. Our failures, no matter how serious, do not shock God. He is also committed to relationship restoration, going so far as to send his Son to the cross to demonstrate that commitment. We see the historical examples of men who have fallen much further than we have, such as David, who was restored to be a man after God’s own heart. We relate intimately to the words of the apostle Paul in which he shares his pain with the believers in Rome, where he says,

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do’I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord’Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
In your desire to restore your relationship with God, you have the benefit of God doing much of the work. You have a guarantee from God that if you want to restore the relationship with Him, and take the steps toward restoration mentioned above, restoration is yours. No exceptions, no concern that God will reject your repentance and heartfelt commitment to change.

Relationship to Our Wives: Perhaps you’re on that steady path of recovery; you’re action plan is in place, you’re reassured by the knowledge of God’s still loves you and forgives you despite your failings. But your wife isn’t sure she loves or forgives you; worse yet, she may be convinced that she is no longer capable of either. What do you do?

First, it’s important to understand that your wife is not obligated to simply put the past behind her, and isn’t likely to do so, at least not quickly. Worse yet, she may never be able to get over this completely, or at all. Recently on our radio program Steve Arterburn was talking to a caller who was involved with this kind of problem. He asked the caller to go through a mental exercise that is worth sharing. Imagine that you are standing on a floor with your feet together. Draw a line on the floor around your feet, about two feet out. Inside this line is everything in this world you have control over. Talk about reality setting in; you can only control what you do with your recovery, not how someone else responds to it. That small circle of control can make a man feel a bit claustrophobic, especially if he’s the controlling type, a common characteristic of the sex addict.

The good news is that what you do with your recovery is likely to be highly influential in how your wife responds. If she is listening to good counsel, she’ll be giving little attention to your words and a lot of attention to your actions. She needs to see with her own eyes, over time, a man who is living a life of sexual integrity. Very slowly, depending on what she sees in your life, the trust may begin to return.

This slower approach may be difficult to accept, and there may be a temptation to pressure her to come along at your pace, rather than her own. Professional counselors will tell you, however, that if she is too quick to forgive and forget, without resolving her feelings of betrayal, her anger will find its way back into your relationship in less obvious ways.

The challenge for a man who has fallen but now strives for sexual integrity is to demonstrate, over time with consistency, that he is a changed man. If he does that, the reality is that everything else is in God’s hands; not such a bad place to be for a believer, regardless of whatever other consequences may come his way.

If you would like additional help in restoring your marriage, we encourage you to prayerfully consider attending one of our couples groups at our next New Life Weekend.

Fresh Start

hand&treeSeptember is just around the corner, and for many people September means a new start, a fresh start. Students, from kindergarten to graduate school are preparing to begin a new year of classes which will equip them to be successful in life. In churches around the country, September means a new start; pastors starting a new series, Sunday School classes starting new curriculum, and men’s ministries starting new topics of discussion. How about you? Do you feel the need for a fresh start right now?

Let’s look at a couple of areas where a new and fresh start might be just the thing that you need to get you out of the ‘dog days of August.’

How about a fresh start in your relationship with God? Are you spending time with Him each day, in His Word and in prayer? There is no way to have a relationship with someone, anyone, if you don’t spend time with them. The first point of Joe’s after-care action plan is to have a quiet time, even if it’s only about 10 or 15 minutes, with the Lord each day. You really don’t have the desire to do that? My encouragement would be to do it anyway. My guess is that your desire will come around after awhile. C.S. Lewis said, “it’s easier to act your way into a feeling than it is to feel your way into an action.” If you wait till you feel like having a quiet time you may never do it. Just go ahead and start your plan of 10-15 minutes a day with the Lord and watch Him work on your feelings. The quiet time with the Lord is the first and most important way to get, or continue on the road to sexual sobriety and purity. Remember that you can do everything through the One who strengthens you.

How about a fresh start in your relationships with your wife, or other significant relationships? This is the perfect time to suggest to your wife that you sit and read ‘Every Woman’s Marriage‘ together. After she’s picked herself up off the floor from fainting, suggest a night that you can sit together and read, and experience some emotional and spiritual closeness. This fall can be the perfect opportunity for you to initiate that emotional connectedness that you’ve been missing in your relationship. That connectedness is one thing that will help you in your quest to get victory over the hurtful, inappropriate connectedness that you may have been trying to get through pornography. You’re not married? How about a fresh start with your friends, or family? How about reaching out to that buddy who you know would make a great accountability partner? How about making a fresh start with that son or daughter that you’ve hurt in the past with your actions and haven’t talked to in awhile. God’s forgiveness has felt fresh and new to you since Every Man’s Battle, so let’s pass it on to others. Come on, let’s make a fresh start in September. It’ll take a little work, but it will be worth it.