Monday, July 2, 2012

Friends with Benefits

Last part of the sermon series, once again I'll re-blog this or you can watch Pastor M below...

This month we’ve been going through a series called ‘Finders Keepers: How To Find and Keep The One’. We’re learning some foundational principles from scripture about how to enter into and conduct healthy romantic relationships. As we’ve said all along, this series is for you whether you’re hoping to enter a romantic relationship, whether you’re already in a relationship or married and even if you’re not entertaining the idea of entering into a romantic relationship now or in the near future. Our first principle … was that in a time when everyone around us is looking for a relationship to meet their needs, ‘stop searching for the one, be the one!‘ Then we focused on Deal Breakers and we learnt that the most important foundation for an intimate marriage is ‘One Leader, One Love!‘ Last week was ‘Buyer’s Remorse‘ when we talked about the danger of rushing from acquaintance to intimacy without building a foundation of friendship. We learnt the important principle, ‘Socialize Before You Specialize‘.

So today we want to talk about sex. At what point does sex become a benefit in your relationship? In some senses we’re building on the foundation we began last week. We want to learn about an anonymous young man who was about to learn about the liabilities of friends with benefits.

READ Prov.7:6-23 [THE MESSAGE]

6-12 As I stood at the window of my house looking out through the shutters, Watching the mindless crowd stroll by, I spotted a young man without any sense. Arriving at the corner of the street where she lived, then turning up the path to her house. It was dusk, the evening coming on, the darkness thickening into night. Just then, a woman met him— she’d been lying in wait for him, dressed to seduce him. Brazen and brash she was, restless and roaming, never at home, Walking the streets, loitering in the mall, hanging out at every corner in town.

13-20 She threw her arms around him and kissed him, boldly took his arm and said, “I’ve got all the makings for a feast— today I made my offerings, my vows are all paid, So now I’ve come to find you, hoping to catch sight of your face—and here you are! I’ve spread fresh, clean sheets on my bed, colorful imported linens. My bed is aromatic with spices and exotic fragrances. Come, let’s make love all night, spend the night in ecstatic lovemaking! My husband’s not home; he’s away on business, and he won’t be back for a month.”

The book of Proverbs is written by an old man, King Solomon, who is sharing the benefits of his wisdom with his son. In our story, Solomon is standing at his balcony, and down at street level he sees a bunch of loitering young men: A ‘mindless crowd’. But among them, he identifies one who is even more mindless, he calls him ‘a young man without any sense’. Why does he call him this? Because he can see that he is ‘loitering with intent’. He can see the guy is on his way to ‘hook up’ or to make a ‘booty call’ as they say today, and he can see where this will all end up.

I believe that when it comes to sex and dating, our generation has become a ‘mindless crowd’, young men and women without any sense. I know that I’m generalizing of course, but today, many relationships in our city seem to track along the following four stages…

Stage 1: Attraction (0-7days) – Initiated by physical attraction to the other person, the priority in this stage is to catch the attention of the other person and see if they’re interested in me. And so I do what it takes to get them to like me enough to go out on a date with me.
Stage 2: Seduction (1day-2 months) – This is initiated by going out on a date. The priority here is to explore and see how far this thing can go. And so you work on turning them on so that they want to take it to the next level.
Stage 3: Passion (2-12 months) – This is initiated when there’s a physical interaction ultimately leading to sexual involvement. At this point the couple is ‘officially’ dating. Of course the other scenario is that the three stages can all happen on the same day. ‘I like you, you like me, let’s be friends – with benefits!’ Note: all these 3 stages could happen in one night or in half an hour! What is commonly known as the ‘chips funga’ phenomenon. Now if the relationship continues (and that’s a big if), we move to…
Stage 4: Cohabitation – This is initiated by very practical considerations like cutting bills, saving time or just convenience. The couple moves in together or the girl moves into the guys place over the weekends. This could take place sooner for older couples but takes longer for those who are younger. At this point, going out with another person would be called cheating. Now please note that all these stages happen informally. Nobody defines anything. At each stage, the physical involvement is what defines where the couple is in the relationship!
70-75% of couples who sign up today for pre-marital counseling in our churches are either at stage 3 (passion) or stage 4 (cohabitation). What is wrong with this picture? I believe that we as a generation have bought into several lies about sex. Three important ones …

Lie #1: Sex will help me to truly know the other person
Conventional wisdom today states that the only way to check out whether you’re compatible with another person is through having sex with them. If you’re good in bed together, then you’ll know that you have what it takes to stay together. I mean you don’t want to get stuck for the rest of your life with a person with whom you can’t have sexual fulfillment together! So you’ve got to try before you buy!

But this is a hugely damaging lie! The reality is that rather than help you know the other person, sex before marriage actually kills your ability to do so. Once you’ve have sex while you’re dating, it’s very hard to grow in any other areas of your relationship. It’s like when you have an extremely sweet dessert before you’ve had your meal that ruins your taste buds for the main course! One of our local restaurants had a cake I liked called ‘Death By Chocolate’. You took one bite of it and you couldn’t taste anything else! After you’ve had sex, you lose the ‘taste’ for such things as growing in communication, appreciating the other person’s strengths and weaknesses, learning how to resolve conflicts, understanding their family background, figuring out how they manage money etc.

Ironically, these things that you lose taste for are the very things that will build trust in the relationship for you to eventually share your heart with the other person so you that you truly get to know them. [the ultimate irony is that the word 'Trust' today has been hijacked by a product that ultimately represents the mistrust in our relationships] Without real trust, your relationship is doomed to forever remain shallow and physical. So you wondered why when he had sex with you he lost interest; we’ll there was nothing else! For many couples today, sex is their only glue. And when that chemistry or high wears off, boredom inevitably sets in because there’s nothing else between them to keep them together!

‘False intimacy destroys real intimacy!’

Lie #2: Sex is an uncontrollable, natural impulse
This is a prevalent lie in our highly sexualized society today. Many people see sex as a natural appetite that every normal person needs to fulfill. When you’re hungry, you eat! When you’re thirsty, you drink! When you’re itchy, you scratch! When you’re horny, you just do it! Today’s younger generation don’t even know how to have a conversation with the opposite sex. They friend each other on Facebook and in a few days are meeting for their first date. After they have sex, then they get to find out what the other person’s real name is! Things are so bad now that I’ve heard that what many people today say is ‘let’s stop pretending; we know we want each other; let’s just have sex and get the pressure out of the way then we can get to know each other!’ Good grief! (Bad grief!)

A little while back, the movie ‘40 Year Old Virgin’ expressed this lie perfectly. The poster showed a very un-cool guy looking very sad & repressed and some cool guys laughing behind his back. The message is ‘if you’re not having sex, there’s something wrong with you’. Some ‘experts’ have even go as far as to say that without some form of sexual involvement before marriage, there could be a damaging effect on your sex life. When you finally do have sex, the lady might feel like she’s being violated and the dude may not be able to turn the machine on because it’s been off for too long! In this twisted thinking, propagated even by highly educated psychologists, masturbation is a healthy form of release, pornography is a tasteful form of art, and ‘friends with benefits’/‘chips funga’ is just following your natural instincts!

Of course this worldview would be correct if human beings were merely evolved forms of animal life. If all you are is an intelligent monkey, then that makes perfect sense! The reality though is that you are made in God’s image. And that God gave you instincts to master, and not to be mastered by. Many people today have found out too late that sex can be a worse drug than the most addictive narcotic. One letter from the blog this week really broke my heart. ADDICTED wrote;

“On the outside i present myself as a righteous lady decent and innocent. I don’t do drugs, I drink wine and soft alcohol, I read the Bible and in fact am saved. But i am a SEX ADDICT. I just have to do it and if I don’t I masturbate (or) look at men and fantasize about having sex with them. This became worse after I met my last boyfriend. I used to do him so much he used to practically ran away from me. He started messing with other girls but could never get enough of me. He just came back to me and says he’s addicted to me. (So how can I cultivate a relationship?) I’m sick; counseling (doesn’t) help me, honestly i just want to settle down in a normal Christian environment with a true man of God. I’m stuck and depressed – what to do?”

My heart goes out to you ‘addicted’ (and to anyone else in that situation). My encouragement is that you come to one of our (female) prayer counselors and we will walk with you. We won’t judge you but help you because the truth is you are sick. It won’t be easy but it is possible to be healed. But for the rest of us… Why would you want to do this to yourself? You see, sex is a wonderful gift from God, when used within His confines. But just like fire, if you take it out of the fireplace and use it where it shouldn’t be used, it becomes a terribly destructive force.

‘False intimacy destroys real intimacy!’

Lie #3: Sex is okay as long as you’re truly in love and committed to each other.
I mean what can be wrong when two consenting adults who are committed to each other decide to make choices about their own bodies? Surely, it hurts no one! Let’s get real; after all, this is the 21st century!

The problem with this thinking is expressed well in our passage. v19-20 says;

‘My husband’s not home; he’s away on business, and he won’t be back for a month.’

The woman this young man was going to have sex with belonged to someone else! In this case, she was someone else’s wife. You see, before you have formalized your marriage, that person you’re attracted to is not yours. She’s someone else’s daughter, and potentially someone else’s wife. And vice versa; he’s potentially someone else’s husband. There are no guarantees, regardless of how you feel right now, that you will not break up. If you do, you will not be the first to do so. At that point, you might then hook up with completely different people. The results can be catastrophic. Women who can’t have their husbands touch them in certain ways because it reminds them too much of things they used to do. Men who can’t have sex without comparing their partners to someone or some image from the past. Women who can’t have children due to damage from abortions and sexually transmitted diseases. Or just couples who are insecure because they know their partners past.

In our NDOA class, we encourage all couples to come clean with each other about their sexual past. This is because we believe it allows you to build a relationship on the foundation of truth, and not live the rest of your lives looking over your shoulder and fearing what your spouse might find out about you. For many couples, this is a traumatic time! Yes you love the person, and yes you are perfect for each other, but you’re not sure they’ll still want you when they discover you’re their 3rd or 15th sexual experience. And so you have a terrible choice; tell them and face the risk of insecurity or even rejection OR don’t tell them and start your marriage on a foundation of deceit and secrecy. Why would you want to do this to yourself?

‘False intimacy destroys real intimacy!’

So, we’ve looked at some of the lies. Now here’s the truth…as the young man allows his ‘animal instincts’ to take over…

21-23 Soon she has him eating out of her hand, bewitched by her honeyed speech. Before you know it, he’s trotting behind her, like a calf led to the butcher shop, Like a stag lured into ambush and then shot with an arrow, Like a bird flying into a net not knowing that its flying life is over.

The old man is looking sadly at the younger man and can see that his actions will lead to his death. Sex outside marriage leads to death of innocence so you can no longer relate with members of the opposite sex without ulterior motives. It leads to death to intimacy as there’s nothing exclusive about the sexual relationship you’re having with your partner. It leads to death of trust because after all, if you could not be trusted to control your sexual desires for me before we got married, what guarantees do I have that you’ll control them when you go off on a long business trip without me? It leads to death of your moral authority.

Last week we read of Amnon who raped his sister. His father David was angry but did nothing; probably because he himself had slept with someone else’s wife. He had no moral authority to correct his son. Lastly, it leads to death of choice, as sex is a powerful force that can take over and become compulsive. And like ‘addicted’, you find with time that you are no longer in control of your actions.

‘False intimacy destroys real intimacy!’

So what’s the good news? The good news is that sex is a wonderful gift given by God to be enjoyed in a marriage relationship. Our mentor couple in their 50s told us that sex, like a fine wine, had only gotten better for them as they grew older. We were quite surprised at the time because even though we did not plan to have sex before we got married, we were young and strong! We knew we had the physical energy and there’s no way an old couple would keep up with us once we began! But you see the way it works in marriage is as trust grows and you abandon yourself to the other person, sex becomes a way to be naked and not afraid, to fully give yourself to your spouse without inhibitions. And 18 years into our marriage, I can testify that our mentor couple was right! We were only joking when we began! But you see the problem is that many married couples have never appreciated sex the way it was meant to be enjoyed because they doomed it from the start. And it’s remained a physical act, and nothing much else. It’s like being permanently stuck in standard one! The very thing they were rushing for, they may never experience!

‘False intimacy destroys real intimacy!’

For those of you who are here and you’ve messed up. You’re wondering if it’s too late. God is a God of second chances. He is able to restore you.

Begin by confessing that you have misused your sexuality and by doing so have hurt others and attracted death into your life. There is grace and forgiveness for those who honestly tell God all about their failures and sins and ask for help (1 John 1:9).
Secondly, is that you will do what it takes to move out of your situation. If you need to move out of that house, do it! If you need to get out of that relationship, do it! If you need to commit to not be alone in a private place again, do it! Whatever it takes, do it!
Thirdly, fight temptation by setting boundaries around your sexuality. Pray and ask God to show you how to avoid the situations that led you into temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).
And lastly, share with someone who can keep you accountable. With God’s help, you can move away from false intimacy that destroys real intimacy.
Clearly, we need a whole series on this subject of sex! We will have one. But I want to conclude our series in prayer. We want to pray for someone who’s ready to make a commitment to …

Purity – Some of you are recommitting yourselves to something you did a while ago. Other’s are confessing to God and committing to a fresh start. The God of 2nd chances can help you develop a new sense of self-respect, help you break the soul ties that have left you feeling used, rejected and betrayed. Some of you may need to move out and do things right (NDOA)
Salvation – You will never have the strength to hold up a commitment to purity without God’s help

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