When we read 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, we see two cultural myths about sex: 1) I can do whatever I want with my body; and 2) Sex is just an appetite. The biblical message that counters the second myth is: Sex is the donation of your full humanity to another. Now let’s look at how Paul debunks the first myth.

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Sex is not just an appetite, it is the donation of your full humanity to another. Now let’s debunk that first myth: I can do whatever I want with my body. Look back at our passage again. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.

As it turns out, when you become a Christian, your body doesn’t belong to you anymore. It belongs to God, and he has turned you into a house where he lives by his Holy Spirit. Your body is not your own. God bought it and moved in.

The implications of this reality are overwhelming, but let me just give you one: If you are a Christian, whenever you do anything, including sex of any kind, God is there. Now that might totally creep you out or freak you out, but understand this about God: God designed sex, but he is not sexual. God is what’s called supersexual, he is beyond sexuality.

You see, all the gods and goddesses of all the other ancient cultures were extremely sexual. They were dripping unhindered sexuality. Then the Israelites come along talking about this god called YHWH, and they never talked about him in sexual terms. He is beyond sexuality, yet he has given us this gift to be enjoyed according to his design, and not however we want. The bottom line is this: Christian, your body is not your own. God bought it with the blood and life of his son, and then he moved in in the person of the Holy Spirit.

I’ve been sharing excerpts from my sermon for high school students about sex, some of which was influenced by a sermon from Tim Keller. Using 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 as my text, I’ve written about the two cultural myths about sex: 1) I can do whatever I want with my body; and 2) Sex is just an appetite. This post will lay out the biblical message that counters the second myth.

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Sex is not just an appetite. That is such a low, degrading view of sex. Look at this passage again. Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”

Don’t get caught up by the word prostitute. In those days you were either married or you were a prostitute. Christianity was the first social movement, religion, or institution to ever say, “It’s okay to be single.”

But Paul is quoting the book of Genesis here, and he’s saying whenever you have sex with someone, you become one flesh with them. Well, what does that mean? Perhaps you’ve heard of the phrase “the beast with two backs”? Well, that’s not what it means. The word “flesh” can mean a couple of different things, and in this instance what it means is “embodied personhood”. It means “full humanity expressed in your body”.

Sex is not about becoming one body with your sexual partner, it’s about giving your full humanity to another. Sex is the donation of your full humanity to another. This is the biblical message that counters the cultural myth “sex is just an appetite.”

God designed sex to be the consummation of a host of commitments that you make to your spouse. It’s the last commitment, the one in which you physically live and embody all of those commitments—the social, the legal, the relational, the responsibility, the mental, the spiritual, and the emotional.

There is no such thing as casual sex. There is no such thing as sex with no strings. That’s the fantasy of a screenwriter. Sex without those commitments is dehumanizing. Casual sex makes you less human; it turns you into an object of another person’s lust. It is not embodied humanity, it is embodied pornography. It is false.

Yesterday I posted an excerpt from my sermon about sex that I’ll be preaching to high school students. Using 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 as my text, I wrote that the first cultural myth about sex is: I can do whatever I want with my body. Now let’s look at the second myth.

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The first myth about sex is: I can do whatever I want with my body. The second myth is in verse 13. You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.”

Now this one’s a little more complicated, so I’ll try not to get caught up in the details. Again, you’ve got the quotes, and this saying isn’t really about food. No, this myth says Sex is just an appetite. It’s just like hunger. When you get hungry, you eat food. Sex is the same way. When you get horny, you have sex. Simple as that.

The lie that our culture is telling you is this: You cannot be fulfilled in life without sex. A life without sex is like a life without food; you will waste away and die in about 6 weeks. You are a freak if you are a virgin.

This is probably a good time to tell you that God made sex. He designed it. God designed sex to be between a man and a woman who have committed themselves to each other socially, legally, relationally, responsibly, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. Sex is the physical union that ties all of those commitments together. That’s why sex is sometimes called consummation, because the physical is the last of the commitments to be made, and it ties them all together.

So you are not a freak if you are a virgin. You’re smart, and you’re doing things in order. You’re not going to make the physical commitment before you’ve made the social, the legal, the relational, the responsibility, the spiritual, the mental, or the emotional one.

Earlier this week our student ministry director, Runnin’ Adam Walters, (I just made up that nickname, by the way) asked if I would be interested in talking to the high school students about sex on Sunday night. For those of you in ministry, you understand that talking to high school students about sex is simultaneously the easiest and most difficult thing you’ll be asked to do. It’s easy because you don’t have to worry about keeping their attention. It’s difficult because 1) their culture is always talking about sex; 2) they’re always talking about sex; 3) they’re always thinking about sex; 4) they’re having sex (sorry parents); 5) they’re horribly insecure about sex; and 6) almost nothing they hear about sex is true. So, naturally, I agreed. At the very least I’ll get a few blog posts out of it.

My text is 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, which reads quite nicely in the updated NIV. By the way, did you know that the NIV has been updated? True story.

Anyway, I’ll skip the introduction of my sermon and all my ridiculous jokes, and post the bit about the first cultural myth about sex.

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Our culture tells a lot of myths about sex, and we find two of them in this passage in 1 Corinthians. The first myth is right at the top, in verse 12. “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.

Do you see how “I have the right to do anything” is in quotes? That means that this was a common expression among the people that Paul was writing this letter to. It was part of their theology. He’s quoting them. “I have the right to do anything.” In other words, “I can do whatever I want with my body.” It’s my body, who are you to tell me what I can and can’t do with it. This is the first myth about sex: I can do whatever I want with my body.

It’s funny, because if you think about, when it comes to sex, we humans haven’t really changed much in the past 2,000 years. We’re still saying the same thing the ancient Corinthians were saying about sex. “I have the right to do anything. I can do whatever I want with my body.”

Let’s think about this for a second. Can you really do whatever you want with your body? I’d like to be able to fly. Can you fly? No? Me neither. So I can’t do whatever I want with my body.

But, you might say, we’re talking about sexually. Oh, okay. So you can have sex with whoever you want? Oh, only if they’re willing. Otherwise it’s a horrible crime, right? And there are other things you can’t do that we won’t even mention, but needless to say, you can’t do whatever you want with your body. You don’t have the right to do anything. There are limitations.

Paul’s response to this quote is interesting. He basically says, “Oh really? Well let’s assume for a moment that you’re right. You can do whatever you want with your body, but not everything is good for you. Not everything is beneficial to you. Not everything moves you forward as a person. You may think you want that, but then after you do it, you will immediately regret that decision.”

He goes on to say, “I will not be mastered by anything.” This means that the more you do whatever you want with your body, the more you will be unable to stop doing it. The more you have sex with whomever and however and whenever and wherever you want, the more you become a slave to sex. Your sexual desires will rule over you, and even when you want to do something else you won’t be able to.

This will be the last post of my journey through Dick Staub’s book, The Culturally Savvy Christian. This book has been very formative for me (we even got a kind comment from the author on one of the posts!), and I hope that you go out and buy yourself a copy of it–or you can join our life group and go through it with us for free, because one couple generously offered to buy everyone a copy! The last two posts have been about God’s deep and transforming presence, and this one is about God’s loving presence.

I’ve blogged and preached extensively (for me, anyway) about agape love–a love that lays down its life. This is God’s kind of love, and by this love we are transformed. We cannot be made like Christ simply by accumulating knowledge and experience; we become like Christ because we experience the depth of God’s transforming love in our souls. “Soul wellness is ours only when the indwelling God, whose love is eternally available and utterly reliable, sustains us.” (121)

“Only those who experience God’s loving presence in the deepest places of their soul can be a loving presence in the souls of others. When touched by God, our deepest wounds can become our deepest well of compassion for the sorrows of others.” (124) If we allow him, God can transform our pain and weakness into sources of compassion, empathy, and wisdom for our brothers and sisters. It is not a question of can God, but will you let God. His presence is liquid, seeking its own level in the deepest, darkest caverns of our hearts where the ground is both parched and fallow from the lack of water and light. His presence brings refreshment, healing, and eventually a harvest to the deep wounds of our souls. In this way we are transformed, not in manners of behavior, but in modes of being. “Our transformation is the result of God’s presence in our life, and the evidence of God’s presence is our embodiment of God’s love.” (125)

If you want to transform the culture, you yourself must be transformed by the rich, loving presence of God. “Today’s Christians are often a mirror image of popular culture, wanting to transform the world without being transformed, wanting to prove Christianity intellectually without displaying the love that is the proof we are Jesus’ disciples. The only way to enrich our culture is to be enriched personally, which comes when we experience God deeply and then embody God’s loving presence. …The culturally savvy Christian’s goal is to embody God’s loving, transforming presence in the world.” (125)

I don’t know about you, but I want to be that kind of Christian. I’ve only got one shot at this, and the greatest terror that haunts me is to think that I might go to my grave having lived a mediocre life characterized by the capitulation to popular culture rather than the embodiment of God’s agape presence, by the stale shallowness of mindless distraction rather than the healing, soul-level transformation that comes from experiencing God deeply. True transformation–not just behavior modification–begins by experiencing God in the deep recesses of your inner being, and slowly but steadily grows upward and outward. The same is true, I suppose, of popular culture.