Grace is the new world given to us in Jesus. Grace is the air we breathe in our relationship with the Father as his beloved children. Grace is the gift we give each other in our walk as disciples. Grace is the gift we are to offer the lost and confused world without Jesus. Grace for our lifetime is the gift we offer each other in marriage.

Few areas of life require as much grace as physical, spiritual, and emotional intimacy between a husband and wife. In a world filled with abuse, distortion, missteps, and hurt, many come to marriage with wounds and scars — often unseen wounds and scars. We all come, rightly and wrongly, with expectations and dreams. Culture screams in our ears, shouts from our checkout counters, and pontificates from our screens of all shapes and sizes the twisted expectations of a world turned upside down and lost to its conflicting demands. One minute we are legitimately excoriating spousal abuse and then the next glorifying BDSM as a means of sexual fulfillment. So how do we navigate the treacherous waters of sexual expectations in our day or our desires and fantasies and remain faith disciples of Jesus?

A sense of safety and self-preservation would preclude jumping into the sizzling discussions of sexual desire in today's sexually charged fascinations and fantasies. However, to miss this moment to share a few principles of God's grace in the joy, fulfillment, delight, celebration, submission, and reverence of sexual intimacy feels irresponsible and cowardly. So many of the inquiries I receive from our thousands of readers focus on these kinds of issues. So here goes my humble attempt to remind myself, and those who are wanting to look over my shoulder, of some principles that I feel I must not lose as Jesus' disciple and as one of the Father's beloved children in today's climate of sexual obsession.

We must first remember the point at which the wheels come off the wagon, and we go careening out of control in our desire — any desire. Paul makes very clear that the point at which any object, any desire, any being, or any action becomes our idol, our false god that replaces the one true and living God:

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator — who is forever praised. Amen (Romans 1:25).
I still remember more than 40 years ago a Bible professor lamenting that sex was the new god of our culture. He held up a box of map colors for elementary school students that had a woman in a bikini on the box to help market the map colors. While we could point to many more clear examples today, sexual fulfillment has in many ways become the dominant religion of our culture and the ultimate human right of self-expression.

As a believing community, we have to accept our responsibility for the world's rejection of God and God's will for human sexuality. We have neither fully taught nor joyously celebrated God's truth about human sexuality. We often have taught little more than "don't" and "wait." We've added a healthy layer of unbiblical prudishness. We have taught procreation. We have taught fulfillment largely from a male point of view. We've left the world thinking that the Bible teaches that sex is dirty, necessary to have children, not to be discussed openly, and certainly not to be discussed joyously. We left a vacuum that ignored the delight, joy, fulfillment, discovery, sensuality, and grace God intended for a married couple to celebrate in sexual intimacy. The world filled that vacuum with the opposite information that is embedded with the power of the evil one to destroy marriages, rip apart families, and enslave millions to pornography.

So when the world believed the lies perpetuated about God and sex, they exchanged the truth of God for a lie. The gift of sexual intimacy became the god of our day, sexual fulfillment. We live in a world where the "created thing" is now worshiped rather than the Creator. God gave it to us as a gift for a husband and wife to explore on a lifelong journey of intimacy, submission, love, delight, fulfillment, and worship.

So I invite you to share a little journey with me as I remind myself what God has given us in Scripture to discover his grace in sexual intimacy. I invite you to pray about our culture and commit to influence toward God — not by screaming at it, but teaching and demonstrating God's intentions for us. I encourage you to join me in talking about these principles with our Christian friends. Finally, I want to challenge us to focus our reactions on personal application and obedience. We can then use our example as a foundation for offering hope and redemption of the mess that will come from the flotsam left behind in the wake of our current cultural climate of sexual expectation and demand. Most of all, I encourage you to join me in spending time in Scripture and re-awakening ourselves to the grace God has given us in our sexuality and marriage. Rather than screaming at culture, let's begin the work of redeeming our own little part of the culture — our marriages, our families, our friendship, and our spiritual communities and families.

This week, let's begin the process of thinking and praying about the goal of our sexual desire: blessing and fulfilling our husband or wife while bringing delight in what we do to the giver of this gracious and good gift, God. Paul warned that when the created gift (sexual intimacy and pleasure) becomes the object of our worship rather than God the Creator who gave us the gift, we become idolaters. When we turn away from God and worship our idols instead of God, he gives us up to chase all sorts of illusions and false joys that end up in self-destruction and depravity (Romans 1:17-32). So here are some places for us to begin:

  • Pray each day thanking God for the gift of sexual intimacy.
  • Praise God for giving us a way to experience delight, pleasure, and joy that also brings him honor and praise.
  • Ask the Father to open our eyes to his truth and grace for us in sexual intimacy that is taught in Scripture.
  • Spend time each day this next week reading through some key passages that will be the foundation of our series together. (You can find both the whole set of these passages and the key passages for next week at the end of this post and you can click on the scripture references to see the verses displayed.)
  • Pray for our children and our grandchildren to not only know the truth of God's grace in sexual intimacy, but to be a part of redeeming what is warped and wounded in their culture.
  • Commit to live out the principles of intimacy, submission, love, delight, fulfillment, and worship that God embedded into the experience of our sexuality in marriage.

Key Questions from Today:

  1. Do you believe we have made the created gift — sexual desire and fulfillment — to be god in our culture and let those desires replace our commitment to honor the Creator as God?
  2. What evidence do you see of this in our culture?
  3. Have you caught yourself thinking in similar ways?
  4. Do you have fear about this or fear even the discussion of these issues?
  5. Where is the best place for Jesus' disciples to discuss these issues?
  6. With whom will you visit, pray, and study these issues?

Key Passages for Next Week:

  • Genesis 1:26-27
  • Genesis 2:4-25
  • Matthew 1:24-25 (See KJV or ESV for literal translation)

Key Passages for our Journey:

  • Genesis 1:26-27
  • Genesis 2:4-25
  • Proverbs 5:1-23
  • Proverbs 6:20-35
  • To miss this moment to share a few principles of God's grace in the joy, fulfillment, delight, celebration, submission, and reverence of sexual intimacy feels irresponsible and cowardly.
  • Proverbs 7:1-27
  • Song of Solomon 1:12-16
  • Song of Solomon 2:1-8
  • Song of Solomon 2:16-17
  • Song of Solomon 4:1-16
  • Song of Solomon 5:1
  • Song of Solomon 5:9-16
  • Song of Solomon 6:2-3
  • Song of Solomon 7:1-13
  • Song of Solomon 8:6-7
  • Song of Solomon 8:14
  • Matthew 1:18
  • Matthew 1:24-25
  • Matthew 19:1-12
  • Romans 1:18-32
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-20
  • 1 Corinthians 7:1-5
  • Ephesians 5:21-33
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8