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Audio Archive - The Calvary Ottawa Years
Kept - Hebrews 13:4
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Kept - Hebrews 13:4

Message 5 in a series on Marriage

In the fifth and final study in our series on marriage, we turn our attention to the sexual component of marriage. Because our views of sex have mostly been shaped by our culture, it's important for us, no matter if we are unmarried or married to take a fresh look at the timeless truths given to us in the Scriptures.

The other messages in this series are:

  1. Marriage - Genesis 3:16-20 “Parents”

  2. Marriage - 1 Corinthians 7 “Free”

  3. Marriage - Ephesians 5:22-24 “Wives”

  4. Marriage - Ephesians 5:25-34 “Husbands”

  5. Marriage - Hebrews 13:4 “Kept”

Here are my notes:

Marriage - Hebrews 13:4 “Kept”

INTRO: Let’s turn in our Bibles and Bible apps to Hebrews 13, where we will read verse 4. Our topic today is the sexual component of marriage. We are going to hop around quite a bit, but that’s the right place for us to start.

Hebrews 13:4 (CSB): 4 Marriage is to be honored by all and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers.

This is the fifth and final study in our series on marriage. We’ve started in Genesis 3 looking at the universal conditions of marriage, then 1 Corinthians 7 and the merits of marriage. And, then we switched gears and looked at how to stay married, turning to Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3, first for wives and then for husbands. Today, we will look at what the Bible says about what the writer of Hebrews calls the marriage bed, what we generally refer to as sex.

I really wrestled with whether or not to give this study, publicly, on a Sunday morning. When there’s pre-Marital counseling, we generally reserve this session until a few days or a week before the wedding date. There’s a reason for that. One is to respect the power of what’s been called “the marriage act.”

There are some of us that are unmarried, and it can be argued quite effectively that the topic would do more harm than good.

On the other hand, almost all of us have had our views of sex shaped by movies, TV, talks “around the water cooler,” gossip in the office, locker rooms, the media, pornography, or by promiscuous sex, and statistics say that 1 in 4 of us have, sadly, had the experience of being abused sexually.

So, it’s for those reasons, that we really do need to take a fresh look at some timeless truths given to us in the Scriptures in regard to “making love.” And, we will try to do that in a way that honours everyone, whether married or unmarried.

Here in our text, the first thing we notice is marriage is to be honoured and how the marriage bed is to be kept undefiled. That means in God’s eyes, marriage is honoured, and the sex act in marriage is something good, something holy, something as some of your translations say… “pure”. This means good.

The counselor that did our premarital, Gen and I, he said “God created sex, and has been laughing ever since, watching us trying to figure it out.”

Listen, almost every married couple has struggles in this area of their relationship. God made us so different.

But, sex in marriage, according to God, is good, and it needs to be kept or maintained, undefiled, or pure.

In certain periods of church history, Christians have viewed the sexual component of marriage as something sinful, fleshly or purely carnal. At some points, pastors and priests taught that it was only for procreation. And, so, it shouldn’t be enjoyed. That’s unfortunate, because as history continued to unfold, we recognized that there’s a breakdown in that logic.

The Bible declares very clearly, that God is love. That’s in 1 John 4. He’s the source and substance of love. So, it follows that as Christians, when we are expressing love to one another in marriage that He would be present.

Not only that, but when you and I repented of our sins, put our trust in Christ and his payment for sin on the cross, and asked for forgiveness, when we became Christians, the Holy Spirit came to live on the inside of our bodies, in our hearts. He promised to never leave us nor forsake us, to be with us forever. And, so, naturally, it follows that the Holy Spirit would be present in every part of life. He’s not on the outside of the door. He’s with us. And, since He’s both the source and substance of love. It’s Him that is helping us to love.

Now, for some of us, we hear that and we think it’s really weird.

But, I want to challenge you… are you holding back on any part of your life from true love? From love itself? Is there any part that is only yours? Or, have you given the Lord Jesus Christ, permission to be Lord over all? And, to be present over all the parts of life?

Not there’s some of us here that don’t think that’s weird. Some of us hear that as good news! Lord, you’re interested in this? Lord, my spouse and I, we are struggling! We need help in this area!

Marriage is to be honoured and the bed kept undefiled, it’s good, it’s holy.

How do you keep it undefiled? Keep your finger here in Hebrews, turn with me back to 1 Thessalonians 4:3.

1 Thessalonians 4:3–8 (CSB): 3 For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you keep away from sexual immorality, 4 that each of you knows how to control his own body (I love the NIV here, it says “learn to control his own body) in holiness and honor, 5 not with lustful passions, like the Gentiles, who don’t know God. 6 This means one must not transgress against and take advantage of a brother or sister in this manner, because the Lord is an avenger of all these offenses, as we also previously told and warned you. 7 For God has not called us to impurity but to live in holiness. 8 Consequently, anyone who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.

Look, there’s an inverse relationship between sexual immorality and the Holy Spirit, lustful passions and the Holy Spirit. Hebrews and 1 Thessalonians match. The Lord is an avenger of these things. He will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers. So, sexual immorality is to be avoided.

What is sexual immorality? The Bible describes any sexual activity outside of marriage as sexual immorality. Let me share with you a couple or reasons why.

First, it’s a sin against your own body. Paul wrote, 1 Corinthians 6, extensively about the body and how when you’re joined sexually to someone else without that covenant of marriage, you’re actually hurting yourself. Your body is being used to make promises to each other that there’s no intention of keeping. Your body wasn’t made for that, it was made as a temple for the Holy Spirit, for being joined, having communion with God through the Holy Spirit. Sexual immorality will always be a horrible substitute for the real thing, which is being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Second, and this is closely related, when you have sex, you’re completely exposed, completely known, all your secrets and mysteries physically, are now known. The problem is, that there’s no commitment, no vow, no covenant to secure it, to accompany that vulnerability. So, what inevitably happens, is that there is a break in the relationship, a rejection of relationship, and that break, cuts down to the core of who we are, because we have been totally known, totally vulnerable, no secrets left, known and then instead of accepted and cherished, we are rejected. It’s devastating.

The Holy Spirit knows all about us, and has chosen to never leave, never forsake, to relate to us not on the basis of behaviour, but on the basis of grace.

Lastly, the two will become one flesh. Not only does the sex act join two people’s bodies and affect their psyche and their spirit, but the natural result of sex is a child. The two become one flesh. And, the child deserves a chance at life, to enter into the world in the environment of a mom and a dad that have vowed before God and the community to love each other, be there for each other till death do them part. When that vow breaks apart the person that bears the consequences the most is the child, sometimes with their life through abortion, always through their psychological and emotional development as a whole human. The two become one flesh.

The Holy Spirit desires to make your life fruitful, full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

And, so outside of marriage, sexual activity is always categorized as sexual immorality. But, when you get married, now you’re free to have sex.

Leave Hebrews, go with me to Galatians, chapter 5 and let’s look at verse 13.

Galatians 5:13 (CSB): 13 For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love.

This describes the attitude of a Christian who is married, towards sex. The proper place for sex in marriage is not the fulfillment of fleshly desires, not for lustful passions. It’s not ultimate. Sexual desire, lustful passions aren’t to rule anyone. The proper place for the sexual component of marriage is to be used to serve one another through love.

Let me state that again.

The proper place for sex in marriage is not the fulfillment of fleshly desires. The proper place for the sexual component of marriage is to be used to serve one another through love.

When we think of the sex act in marriage, not only do we know that the Holy Spirit is present, and that it’s holy, we also need to remember that it’s not to feed the flesh, but it’s an opportunity to serve one another through love.

This principle, of personal pleasure, selfish pleasure not being supreme in the life of a Christian is paramount. 2 verses later:

Galatians 5:16 (CSB): … walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh.

It’s truly better to give than receive. Consider that idea as the the guiding principle of sex in marriage, and listen again to Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:

3 A husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife (the ESV has “her conjugal rights,” the NKJV “the affection due her,” the KJV is just awesome… ‘“let the husband render unto his wife due benevolence,”), and likewise a wife to her husband. 4 A wife does not have the right (most of the translations say “authority”) over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband does not have the right (or “authority”) over his own body, but his wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another—except when you agree for a time, to devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again; otherwise, Satan may tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Each has authority over the other’s body. There has to be this mutual submission. Yet, deprivation should be avoided. The whole thing has this underlying principle of serving one another through love, putting the other first. Yet, at the same time having authority over their body.

That’s very Christian.

So, no one should be taken advantage of. No one should be left out. No one should be demanding of the other. Selfishness shouldn’t have a place. No one should be used. It’s not an opportunity for the flesh. It’s an opportunity to serve one another through love.

So, here’s what that means practically. If someone’s tired, the other doesn’t force their desires on them. Even on the wedding night. I’ve heard scary statistics of the amount of people who felt taken advantage of on their wedding night.

Here’s what that means, practically, it means that you might have a schedule so you can plan. It means that you might not have a schedule because that is the plan. But you agree together. And, if you change it, you change it together. It’s mutual submission.

It means, practically, that you communicate, you talk about what blesses and what doesn’t bless. What ministers and what doesn’t minister. It means that you don’t coerce, or manipulate, or demand. But, give. You try to have things be unbalanced in their favor.

It means, practically, that you keep your body ready to serve, It means that you keep yourself clean, brush your teeth, trim your nails and so forth, all in order to serve, to be a blessing. It also means that you endeavour to keep your body healthy, because it’s not your own, it belongs to the Lord, and if you’re married, also to your spouse.

It means, practically, not just the body, but you would also maintain your mind and your heart. One of those ways, we’ve already talked about, positioning sex, not as an idol, or as ultimate, but as something free, in order to serve my spouse through love.

Listen to these other passages.

1 Corinthians 13:4–8 (CSB): 4 Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, 5 is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable (or easily offended), and does not keep a record of wrongs. 6 Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends… (or never fails.)

Love is in the area of the mind and the heart. It needs to be maintained. Listen, some of us have been married a long time. And, we are keeping a record of wrongs. It grows every year. Or, we don’t get enough sleep and we are irritable. Or, we have some other priorities that we are stressed out about and we get impatient with the people around us. Or, we see our spouse as the one who is there to serve us, and we become self-seeking, instead of self-less.

Not just married people, unmarried people, need to see that maintenance as the temple of the Holy Spirit. It’s purposing to maintain our heart from resentment, unresolved conflicts, and guilt. Living in the power of love. Serving one another through love.

Did you know? This is the way that God relates to you! He’s patient. He’s kind. He’s not easily offended. He’s not self-seeking. He doesn’t keep a record of wrongs. And, he’s inviting everyone, to live life receiving His love, being served by His love, and living a life of love, the way that He does.

Listen to:

2 Corinthians 10:3–5 (CSB):  For although we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh, 4 since the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments 5 and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.

Love does that. It never fails. Listen to:

Philippians 4:8 (CSB): 8 Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.

No one married or unmarried should be a victim of their own thoughts. That’s part of maintaining the heart and the mind. You have some power here. In fact, you have an obligation here, we need to maintain our hearts and our minds.

And, you can’t do that, if you’re addicted to pornography. It’s not pure. It’s not true, it’s not honorable, or just or lovely or commendable. There’s no moral excellence or anything praiseworthy.

Listen, you may think that it’s hidden and no one knows. But, God knows. And, listen, He wants to help you to be free. There’s help. The first step is by confessing. Getting it out of the dark and into the light.

What about a spouse, or a loved one that is addicted to pornography. What can you do to help? Let me give you some hope. Listen to:

2 Corinthians 4:16 (CSB): 16 Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day.

What does that mean? It means that the Holy Spirit is at work, and He’s renewing on the inside. There’s hope. Listen to:

Ephesians 3:16–21 (CSB): I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, 19 and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen

You know, you can pray for your spouse, or your loved one that is trapped in sinful behaviour. My friend Kristian Landry says it well. “I’d rather pray for someone than talk to them. Talking sometimes works. Prayer always works.” We need to believe in the power of prayer. You can do more than pray. And, we need to do more than pray, but pray is first. And, of course, speak the truth in love.

I have a friend that got married, a guy. And I happened to talk with him about 6 months afterwards, and he was struggling. He told me that every time he had sex, he had these vivid memories of being abused sexually as a child. He thought that he had dealt with everything before getting married, but now here he was struggling. He had worked out a plan with his wife to have sex every 2 weeks. She preferred it to be more often, but because it was so traumatic for him, they had agreed on every other week. At the same time, he had also sought out a counselor. I talked with him a few months later. He had been able to work through the issue with the counselor, and was now able to fully engage in the sexual component of marriage.

It’s a great example of the things we’ve been talking about. Maintaining your heart and your mind to serve. Putting the other first. Being patient with one another. Working out the schedule. Not depriving. Not being easily offended. The inward part being strengthened and renewed day by day. Laying down your life for the other. Serving one another through love. This is keeping the bed undefiled.

That principle will help in almost every part of the sexual component of marriage. And, with almost every problem that occurs in Christian marriage. We don’t have time, nor is it appropriate to go much further than that into details. I can however, heartily recommend the classic Christian resource, “Intended for Pleasure” by Drs. Ed and Gayle Wheat. They take the time to go through the anatomy and physiology, the psychology, and also many of the common problems encountered by Christians in the sexual component of marriage.

But, there’s one more part of this that we should address directly. What’s right for a Christian when it comes to positions, activities, objects and so forth? What does the Bible say?

The Bible does prohibit extra people. Sex is to be between a man and a woman that are married to each other. So, no extra people. And, that includes people in videos, or virtual people, or imagined people, and fantasized people. Some try to spice things up by imagining that they are with someone other than their spouse while they are “ministering” to them. Those thoughts need to be taken captive, because they aren’t true, or virtuous or commendable. So, no videos, or pictures or imagined people. What’s needed is the Holy Spirit. He’s the Creator. He knows not just the human body, but knows your spouse better than anyone, and what will bless them.

The Bible prohibits having sex with animals. That’s called beastiality. Put the cat or the dog or the gerbil or whatever out of the room. Close the door.

Other than that, the Bible is silent on everything else. So, where it goes is towards this principle of mutual submission. And, serving one another. So, the rule is wherever the Holy Spirit leads and conscience allows.

Inevitably, there will be one of you that thinks that a certain activity, or position, or whatever is not okay. And, they need to say that. I don’t like this. It makes me feel dirty, or sinful, or like a piece of meat. You draw a line there. No matter what it is, or how harmless you think it is. That’s the bottom line. That’s the common denominator.

Look with me, last one...

Romans 14:13 (CSB): Therefore, let us no longer judge one another. Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in the way of your brother or sister.

If your spouse doesn’t like something, don’t do it. If their conscience is stricken, don’t do it. That’s serving. You may have the freedom there. But, they don’t. So, don’t go there. And, don’t complain about it. Or try again every couple of months. That line becomes the common denominator. “Pastor, do you mean that in my whole life, I may never be able to do “x”?” Yes. And, it’s a good thing that sex isn’t the most important thing in your life. Jesus is! And, your spouse is second.

Romans 14:13 (CSB): Therefore, let us no longer judge one another. Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in the way of your brother or sister.

By the way, creativity comes to life in boundaries.

Hebrews 13:4 (CSB): 4 Marriage is to be honored by all and the marriage bed kept undefiled, because God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterers.

Let’s pray...

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Audio Archive - The Calvary Ottawa Years
Here’s a spot for keeping some of the messages I did in Ottawa from 2004 through 2021. Many of these I’m quite proud of, and hope they could still be a blessing beyond their initial audience. And, because of the nature of what the Lord did, I’m hopeful, this will provide a spot to go back and remember afresh a specific moment.
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Andy Falleur