What Did You Expect? Part 3 - Remember You Were Born the FIRST Time With a Malfunctioning Body

Friday, September 16, 2011

What Was it Like in the Garden of Eden?

When I read the account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, I'm often stunned by the thought of what that must have been like.  To have been able to walk around in a Garden, totally naked with the woman you love, without poison ivy and mosquitoes and gnats...  All I can say is WOW!!!  That must have been some place.

They were completely naked.  Able to enjoy each other's body, with no hitches.  There was no sense of wrongdoing or dirtiness that often accompanies sex today.  No guilty conscience.  Having sex anytime.  Any where.  Any way.  All without any sense of evil or lasciviousness.  What a perfect world.

Of course there were many other things going on in the Garden, like cultivating, growing plants, vegetables, fruits.  Adam named the animals, so I'm sure that took some time.  But when you're a young man and you read a story like Adam and Eve, all you can usually think of is...naked.  At least, if you're honest that's all you think about.

To be sure, there's nothing wrong at all with that thought.  I mean, who wouldn't wanna live in such an environment, right?  Bodies worked perfectly then.  There was no sin yet, and so there was no suffering, no pain, no sickness.  Nothing went wrong.  Everything went right.  All was well.  Nothing was out of place or disorderly.

When it came to sex, that was perfect too.  I have no way of knowing how a sex drive would have operated in the Garden, but I'm sure it operated perfectly.  There were no mood swings dictating when you did and didn't want sex.  Your intentions and motivations were pure.  There were no "headaches" or mixed signals.  Every second of sex was glorious and luxurious.  I'm sure of that.  You could stop from the day's activities and enjoy sex anytime you wanted, with perhaps little repercussions on the overall work itself.  What a life.

Then sin entered the world.

That day Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, everything changed.  Things were never the same.  Everything that went right and perfect in the Garden, now went wrong and imperfect.  The heart or soul of the human being was now infected with the cancer of rebellion, pride, arrogance, and selfishness.  Therefore, anything a human being put their eyes or hands to was inherently for selfish reasons.  The stories of Cain and Abel and Lamech in Genesis chapter 4, as well as the flood in chapter 6, prove that to be an open-and-shut case.

Genesis 3 tells us that a part of the curse that sin brought with it was back-breaking labor in the fields now.  Sweating, toiling, laboring were the name of the game.  And sore muscles, blistered hands, thorn-cut feet and legs, as well as irritating bugs were all part of a pain with little gain.  To make matters worse, women were directly affected by the curse of sin when it came to childbirth.  Somehow, if Eve had birthed a child in the garden, there would have been no pain involved.  Now, there would be.  Intense is hardly a word a woman would use to describe the pain of having a baby.

Now figure in sex with all this.  Sex is something two perfect people used to enjoy with each other in a perfect place.  But when the world you now live in is not perfect, and when your heart and soul is now infected with rebellion and selfishness, and when your bodies don't work the way they should anymore, what do you expect sex to look like?  It simply can not be perfect anymore.  It will never be perfect.  No matter how hard you try to get it "right", whatever that looks like, it won't be.   Why is that?

This brings me to the third counsel for young men struggling with sexual temptation:  you were born the first time with a malfunctioning body.  Despite the grace of God that saves us from our sins, we will always in this world be trapped in a body that malfunctions. It's just part of the world we live in.  Here's how Paul described all of this in Romans 5.

Later in Romans 8, Paul describes the struggle we have with our bodies this way.
"And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.  We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us" (v. 23).
This is the life context in which we all live today, no matter who you are, what race you are, what country you were born in.  It makes no difference.  Every person ever born is born with a malfunctioning body.  It's called a "sin nature".  The Bible teaches that every human being is born "in sin" which means that sin has left its fingerprints on every part of our lives.(1)  That includes our mind, will and emotions.  It also includes our DNA, our personality, and our bodies.  Some theologians call this "total depravity," which doesn't mean that you're as totally depraved as you could be, but that every part of you in total is infected with sin.

Sin Has Infected Everything About You

Because sin has infected your mind, you'll never be able to think perfectly about God and His kingdom.  There'll always be some flaw in your thinking process.  Because sin has infected your emotions, you'll never be able to feel perfectly about anything.  Because sin has infected your will, or decision making power, you'll always be vulnerable to temptations to do things that are not pleasing to God.  Because sin has infected your DNA, your body will always be dying as it grows older.  Therefore, when it comes to sex, that means several things.

Sin Has Infected Your Mind

First, the way you think about sex is malfunctioned from the moment you're born.  Because sin has infected your mind, the way you process thoughts about sex is also infected with sin.  That infection shows itself primarily in thinking about sex for your own selfish desires.  In other words, there is a constant thought about sex in order to please yourself.  When you see a hot looking female, your mind begins to think about her in ways that do not please God.  And all these sorts of problems are normal, in the sense that they happen because you were born this way.

Sin Has Infected Your Feelings

Second, the way you feel about sex is malfunctioned.  Because sin has infected your emotions, the way you feel about sex is also affected.  That infection shows itself primarily in desiring pleasure now.  When you are aroused by another person, or at the sight of something that turns you on, your sex drive is turned on and you feel only one thing: get sex now!!!  But that is not the way God originally designed human beings.  I believe that in the beginning, God's intention for your feelings was for you to be be aroused by the sight of your wife.  The sight of another woman, if there were one, would not have aroused Adam to feel sexual towards her.  That is a part of sin.

Sin Has Infected Sex

Third, if you're married, the way you interact in sex with your spouse is malfunctioned as a result of being infected with sin.  For the most part, most many Christian, Spirit-filled husbands and wives will say sex is good about 80-90% of the time. So that's a great percentage in my book.  But when I was younger I, like all young men, had an inaccurate view of sex which told me that it was supposed to be perfect 100% of the time.  That's a load of crap.  It's simply not true.  And that's because it can't be true.  And that's because both my wife and I have bodies that are still malfunctioning.  Funny thing is, the older you get, the more your body malfunctions.  And the more your body malfunctions, the more impact it has on your sex life.  So matter what stage of life you are in, there will be bodily malfunctions when it comes to sex. That means we'll never have perfect sex.  (And because our minds are still stained by sin's infection, we probably won't ever be able to even imagine what perfect sex is like.  In the meantime, we enjoy it because it is God's good gift.)

It would be easy at this point for you to get discouraged by these biblical truths.  If you've just heard for the first time that every part of you has been infected by sin, that can be confusing and depressing.  This is where the gospel comes in to play.  It is good news.  It is the good news that Jesus Christ has come into the world to reverse the curse of sin.  By dying on the cross He actually forgave my sin, and promised to make me like Him.  He installed His Holy Spirit inside of me so that I can actually think and feel like God now, which in turn makes me actually want to do the stuff God loves.

That's called grace, and it transforms us over time.  It makes a pronouncement that God sees me as if I were absolutely perfect right now - as perfect as Jesus Christ, in fact.  And that pronouncement has a ton of promises attached to it that get to work today in making me more like Jesus.  That's why knowing whether or not you are truly a follower of Jesus is so crucial.  Without it, you've really got no hope whatsoever of conquering sexual sin.  You'll just live as a slave to it for the rest of your life.

How to Handle a Malfunctioning Body When it Comes to Sex

You should feel a bit more normal by now.  Many young men who desire to follow Jesus and have struggled with their sexual desires come to believe that there must be something wrong with them.  The struggle seems so difficult.  They make the assumption that their desire to follow Jesus should somehow overcome the sexual desires.  But you can see now from the things we just learned that this just isn't so, right?

On the one hand, sexual desires are completely normal.  That's how God made your body. But as we said, sin has infected your body so that sexual desires don't work the way God originally designed them to.  Your body is broken.  But so is everyone else's!  This means you're not so abnormal anymore!  Everyone else has the same problem you do!  

On the other hand, the fact that our sexual desires are broken and malfunctioning means that they need fixing.  And God's grace can overcome whatever is broken about our sexual desires.   The fact that this grace works in and through us over time is something you may not like very much.  But you'll have to get used to it.  That's the way your body works, and it won't be completely fixed til Jesus comes and gets you and gives you a new body like His!  And that's the way His grace works, over time, progressively, making you more like Jesus, healing more and more of you each day, week, month, and year.  In the meantime, grace will overcome, whether you feel it or not. 

Once you've accepted these truths about sin and grace, there are three things you want to do when it comes to handling a malfunctioning body and sex. 

1. Live by the Spirit.

The grace of God that enters our life at salvation brings a promise that will reverse all the infections of sin in our lives.  The gospel is good news that promises that our lives will be transformed by renewing our minds (Rom. 12:2).  It also promises us that our bodies will be transformed when Jesus comes again (Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 15:35-58).  The gospel teaches that the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of us.  This gives us unspeakable supernatural power now.  In fact, it's the very same kind of power that God used when He raised Jesus from the dead! (See Romans 8:11)

When the Holy Spirit comes to live inside, bringing His supernatural power into your life, you have the supernatural ability to do the very opposite of what your body tells you to do.  When your malfunctioning body begins to think about, feel, and want sex in a way that is not God's intention, you have the power to say, "NO!!!"  You did not have that power before God saved you. Now you do.  Romans 8 teaches us that, 
"But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God's laws, and it never will. That's why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.
But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.)  And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God."
The very presence of the Holy Spirit inside of you is all the proof you need that you have resurrection power working inside of you.  The power that raised Jesus from the dead is enough to enable you to say "NO!" to sexual temptation when it comes your way.

2.  Deny Yourself

The grace of God that brought salvation to us teaches us something very important.  Paul wrote to Titus, a young man very much like you and I, that the grace of God teaches us to "deny godless living and sinful pleasures.  We should live in this world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God" (Titus 2:11-13).  The gospel of God's grace cannot be separated from self-denial.

One of the very first things Jesus told people who wanted to follow Him is found in Luke 9:23.  There Jesus taught, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."  Following Jesus begins with no longer following yourself.  It means saying "NO!!!" to yourself and "YES!!!" to King Jesus.  This is especially hard when you're a young man.  And it's even harder when a young man is talking about sex!

The sex drive is powerful.  Extremely powerful.  But it's not more powerful than the supernatural, resurrection power of the Holy Spirit inside of you.  The Spirit gives you the power to deny yourself whatever feelings or thoughts or desires are tempting you.  He is the very person of Jesus Christ in spiritual form.  This means Jesus Christ lives in you.  And that means that Jesus is going to feel, think, and desire the things of the Father.  Jesus Christ is in charge of your body now, not you.  In Romans 6:12-22 we are taught,
"Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death.  Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.  Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God.  Sin is no longer your master...Instead, you live under the freedom of God's grace.
Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.
When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the obligation to do right.  And what was the result? You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom.  But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life." 
Paul was a man just like any of you reading this post.  He too would have suffered from sexual temptation.  He chose to look at self-denial like an athlete does.  "I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should" (1 Cor. 9:27).  An athlete makes intentional, purposeful, willful choices not to do certain things because they will not allow him to build his full potential.  He disciplines his body.  And so must you and I!  We must deny ourselves whatever we must in order to make sure that Jesus remains in control of our bodies, and not our bodies in control of us!  

3.  Look to God to Provide Your Sexual Fulfillment.

So let's assume you're a single man living by the Spirit, and out of the power of grace you're denying yourself.  What now?  Are you expected to just keep on living without any sexual fulfillment?  Or, what if you're married and for whatever reason you're not getting the amount of sex you desire.  But you're also living by the Spirit and living in self-denial of sinful pleasures.  What then?  

God will provide.  God made your body.  He knows how it functions better than you.  He knows your body's malfunctions better than you.  And because His Spirit is living inside of you He's more powerful than you.  Jesus Himself is living inside of you!  HE, above all men, knows what it's like to live by the Spirit and be tempted with things that make your body quiver and shake with desire.

After He was baptized in the Spirit, He was led by the Spirit (Matt. 4:1) out in the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  That ordeal lasted forty days!  Somewhere during that period of temptation Jesus was tempted by the devil with the thought of eating.  Satan knew exactly where to hit Jesus first...in the stomach!  Jesus had been fasting all this time, and He was no doubt, super hungry.  So Satan tempts Jesus to use His supernatural power and turn rocks into bread, so He could eat.  A great idea, right?!

But Jesus knew better.  He was being led by the Spirit while in the wilderness, and the Spirit had not given Him permission to eat yet.  Jesus knew better than to listen to His stomach, much less the devil.  He listened to the Spirit and waited for God's provision of food.  To eat when it was not yet time would actually be to sin against God.  And we learn a powerful lesson here when it comes to sex.

The sex drive is just like the hunger drive.  Both of these drives seem to command you to fulfill the desire.  The hunger drive is intense.  If you've ever been without food for more than day, you know what I'm talking about.  And if you're a teenager, and you've simply gone without one meal that day, you also know what I'm talking about!  Your stomach demands food!  Likewise, when your sex drive is turned on, for whatever reason, it seems to demand sex, right now!!!  

But like Jesus in the wilderness, if you go ahead and make an opportunity to fulfill your sex drive right then, you are not living by the Spirit and waiting on God's provision.  You will be taking matters into your own hands, literally in most cases, and straying outside God's desires for your sex life.  Masturbation is probably the single greatest way in which men choose not to wait for God's provision, but instead choose to provide for its fulfillment by themselves.  Masturbating is not living by the Holy Spirit, nor is it denying yourself.  It is saying to your body, "I know you're hungry for sex, and I'm gonna provide for you right now!"

Another way we provide for ourselves is fornication or adultery.  Fornication is pursuing sex when you are not married.  If you are a single man, God commands you to wait on Him to provide a woman whom you can love completely, and not just sexually.  Adultery is pursuing sex with someone else other than your spouse.  If you are a married man, God commands you to be fulfilled sexually with your wife.  Renewing your malfunctioning mind and denying your malfunctioning body are Jesus' keys to experiencing the kind of grace in your sex life that transforms unfulfillment into complete fulfillment.

Waiting on God to provide means that we trust in Him when we are sexually tempted, or when our malfunctioning bodies are aroused to want sex at the wrong time, in the wrong place, and with the wrong person.  It is choosing to believe that no matter what our bodies tell us, or no matter how strong the sexual desire is, God's desire for us is to be sexually pure in our hearts and minds and bodies (1 Thess. 4:3-7).

(1) Do a Bible Study later through these passages, which teach us more about the sin nature and how it's installed in us from the time we're conceived.  Genesis 2:16; 6:5; 8:21; 1 Chronicles 6:36; Job 15:14-16; Psalm 51:5; 58:3; 103:3; 143:2; Isaiah 53:6; 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9;  Ecclesiastes 7:20; 9:3; Matthew 7:16-18; Mark 7:21-23; John 3:5-7, 19; 8:34, 44; Romans 3:9-12; 5:12; 6:20; 8:7-8; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:1-3; 5:8; Colossians 2:13; 2 Timothy 2:25-26; Titus 1:5; 3:3; James 3:2,8; 1 John 3:10; 5:19.

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