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A Transcription of Tim Keller's "Love and Lust"


Oh right, you read, heard the text, you know the music at the offering is very hard to sleep through and this particular text and sermon would be also pretty hard to sleep through. Jesus in the sermon on the mount is telling us how He wants us to live in every area of life. Well love and sex is one of those areas of life and so he gets to that here and when you first read it, it makes, it would be natural when you hear this read to have a negative response because it looks like on the surface Jesus is saying “if you have sexual desire, you’re going to hell.” And it will be very natural for somebody to say “aha! See that’s that negative view of sex that everybody says Christians have”, but that’s a great misunderstanding. And I’m going to show you that the Biblical or the Christian understanding of sex while it is very different from that which the culture gives you, nevertheless in the grand scheme of things, it’s one of the most attractive things about Christianity. Three things we see here, “the integrity of sex”, “the challenge of lust”, “the future of love”, “the integrity of sex”, “the challenge of lust”, “the future of love”.

Now first, integrity, the integrity of sex, why do I talk about this as an integrity, look. He starts by saying this, “you have heard it said do not commit adultery” and then he goes on it says, “and I say to you” and he’s going to build on that which is very clear that he’s accepting the Old Testament principal, the Old Testament Law, “thou shalt not commit adultery”. Now what is the Old Testament sex ethic, what’s the biblical sex epic. I could give it to you, we have to understand it because Jesus is building on it. I could give it to you in one word, “no sex outside a covenant” or more positively, let’s try to be positive tonight, “sex only inside the covenant.” That is to say the bible says, “no sex outside of marriage.” So somebody’s there saying, “a covenant, that’s a kind of archaic word, could you, could you give me a more up-to-date word, more modern word” and my answer is, no, I can’t because covenant is not just a word, it’s a category of thought and there isn’t any other word I know that conveys this category of thought and what is that category, a covenant, a covenant creates a relationship. It’s a relationship far more loving and intimate than a merely legal relationship but it’s also far more binding and enduring than merely emotional relationship. A covenant creates a personal relationship which is more intimate and loving because it’s legal. It’s more loving because it’s legal. Let me make my case, you say “how’s that?” let me explain. A consumer relationship, in a consumer relationship you relate to a vendor and you have a relationship as long as the vendor is giving you a product at a good price but you’re always looking for an upgrade! And so what you say to your vendor is that, “we have a relationship but you better keep adjusting to me because if you don’t meet my needs, I’m out of here because my needs are more important than the relationship.” “We have a relationship but my needs are more important, if I can get my needs met somewhere else that’s where we’ll go.” But a covenant relationship is exactly the opposite. A consumer relationship says, “you adjust to me or I’m out of here.” A covenant relationship says, “I will adjust to you because I’ve made a promise and the relationship is more important than my needs.” “My needs are less important than the sustenance of that relationship.” Now if two people get into a relationship, one as a consumer and one as a covenanter, that will be bad for the covenanter, that covenanter will be exploited. So if you get into a relationship, if you are not both covenanting, it’s exploitative. But if both of you get into a relationship and say we’re done with the consumer relationship, we’re in a covenant relationship which is what it means to get married. If you get into a covenant relationship, oh my, let me, there’s three things that’ll result. The first is, you finally have a zone of security, a zone of safety, a place where you can finally be yourself. See in a consumer relationship, you’re always marketing. You’re only selling yourself, you got to perform. You got to meet the other person’s need or they are out! But in a covenant, in a marriage, in a covenant, you finally have a zone of safety, you can finally get rid of the facades. You can finally let him know, let her know about your insecurities. You can finally let, be yourself. You finally have a zone of safety. A place where you can actually stop spinning and stop marketing, and stop selling and start being yourself. Secondly, in a covenant relationship, ironically when you are committed to a person in spite of your feelings, deeper feelings grow. If you are committed to a person in spite of your feelings, deeper feelings grow. So for example, the other covenant relationship between besides husband and wife is the relationship between parents and children. And all of you know whether your parents or not, all of you know that in parenting, you get very little back, for a long time and they never catch up. You give and you give and you never, it’s not a consumer relationship at all. You adjust to them, you give and you give and you give and what’s weird is, you do it and you do it and you’re so invested in your children that even when they really in no way act in a loveable way, you love them. There’s a deeper, richer kind of feeling cause you’re invested in them and in the same way if you treat your marriage, if you treat relation between a husband and a wife, there’s a covenant relationship, if you’re committed in spite of feelings, deeper feelings grow. And the third thing that comes, first thing is that you have a zone of safety where you can be yourself, secondly you have a place to develop the richer deeper feelings that come when you commit in spite of your feelings and number three, there’s a freedom. Covenantal relationships bring freedom and here believe it or not, I’m relying on Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher. Kierkegaard puts it like this, he says if you’re, he didn’t use the term, “consumer relationship of course”, but if you’re in a relationship in which I have to feel it. If you’re not meeting my needs, if I don’t feel the love, if I don’t feel fine well then I’m out of here. He says if you’re in a relationship like, you are a slave, you’re not free, you’re a slave to what? You’re feelings. You’re a puppet on a string of your feelings. And think he says, where do you feelings come from? Huh? These things, you’re out of here if I don’t have the feelings anymore, oh so now you’re controlled by your feelings and where do your feelings come from? They come from your physiology to some degree, your body chemistry, they come from your past, she reminds me of my mother, everybody else says, “there’s nothing wrong with her, she reminds me of my mother.” So what, you know, she reminds me of my mother. These bad feelings, nobody else has the problem you do, in other words, your past creates feelings, your physiology creates feelings, your circumstances create feelings, you want to be a puppet on a string? says Kierkegaard, make a promise. Say, “I’m here, you don’t adjust to me, I adjust to you because the relationship is more important than my feelings and my needs and when two people do that together, you have a place to be yourself, you have the new freedom, richer, ok. What’s this got to do with sex? Everything. Because what the bible says is sex is not a consumer good, it’s a convenant good. A consumer good is a way you keep someone in a relationship because they have you, you have a need, I need sex every so often, sex is a way for me to feel good about myself, it makes me feel adored and loved so I go out and find somebody who will meet that need. Sex is a consumer good. The bible says that sex was not designed to be a consumer good. It was designed to be a covenant good and here’s what that means. See in, in a covenant, when you have made a promise, sex becomes like a sacrament. Like a sacrament. When I say like a sacrament, what’s a sacrament, sacrament is an external visible sign of an invisible reality. It’s a symbol, an external symbol of an invisible reality. That’s why it’s so meaningful. When you use sex inside a covenant, it becomes a vehicle for engaging the whole person in an act of self-giving and self commitment. When I, in marriage make myself physically naked and vulnerable, it’s a sign of what I’ve done with my whole life because by giving up my independence and by making this promise, you’re not just a, sex is a, sex is supposed to be a sign of what you done with your whole life and that’s the reason why sex outside of marriage according to the bible lacks integrity. You’re asking someone to do with your body, what you’re not doing with your life. You’re saying, “let’s be physically vulnerable to each other, let’s do physical display, disclosure but not whole life vulnerability.” That’s the reason why C.S. Lewis puts it perfectly, this is a perfect description of the biblical sex ethic, he says “the monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one kind union, the sexual, from all other kinds of union, which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union.” To have physical union without having whole life union is a lack of integrity and if you have sex inside a covenant then the sex becomes a covenant renewal ceremony. It becomes a commitment apparatus, it becomes something that you’re getting married all over again, you’re giving yourself all over again, it’s incredibly deepening and solidifying and nurturing but if you use sex outside of marriage where it really, see if you say in marriage when you’re having sex, you're really saying, I belong completely and exclusively to you and I’m acting it out, that’s what sex is. I’m giving you my body as a token of how I’ve given you my life. I’m opening to you physically as a token of the fact that I’ve opened to you in every other way. That’s how it’s supposed to work. And then sex becomes a deepening, a nurturing thing. It’s like covenant cement, it’s like covenant glue, covenant renewal ceremony. But when you use sex outside of marriage, what are you saying? You’re saying is I love the feeling that I get when I’m with you. You’re taking, not giving, you’re receiving and holding on to your life, you’re holding on to your independence. So you’re receiving and not giving. It’s a consumer good and when you use sex like that, you damage it’s ability to be a commitment apparatus. John White, Christian psychiatrist years ago wrote this, he says the, listen, this is very much like what Lewis said, “the bodily exposure that arose and accompanied sex can be profoundly symbolic and powerfully healing if it’s the concrete sign of what’s happening in the whole relationship. So it only makes sense that sexual relationships be confined to marriage for mutual disclosure and tender acceptance is not the activity of a moment but the fabric of a lifetime weaving and each time sex is physical disclosure, without being complete personal disclosure and commitment, some of it’s life-giving and healing nature is destroyed, in other words you damage your ability to use it inside. This is one of the reason by the way why there’s all these books coming out, I’ll refer to a couple of them in a minute, and articles coming out, very carefully, even in places like the New York Times, pointing out that cohabitation seems to be counterproductive. There was a very carefully worded article in just April 14 in the New York Times, it was written by clinical psychologist, it was called “The Downside of Cohabitation”, pointing out the fact that there’s more and more studies showing that people who lived together before they get married are more likely to divorce than people who don’t. Which is totally counter-intuitive to the average young adult especially in New York City because two-third to three-quarters of all young adults say that you live together before you’re married, you’re more likely to make a good decision because you’ll figure out whether your compatible. The clinical psychologist very carefully points out that’s impossible. Here’s why, she says in the article, “one thing that men and women”, she’s doing a lot of interviewing and studies of men and women who live together, “one thing men and women do agree on is that their standards for a live in partner are lower than they are for a spouse.” And as one woman said, “I felt like I was on this multi-year, never-ending audition to be his wife.” Now here’s what she says, if you’re living together, it’s a consumer relationship, why because you are always looking, “can I do better than this?” See you’re trying to find out whether you’re compatible which is a nice way of saying, “I’m trying to find out whether this person is good enough to marry or whether I could do better?” So you’re looking out for an upgrade so what is sex in a situation like that? It’s marketing, it’s attracting, it’s enticing. It’s trying to keep the relationship going, it’s not trusting, it’s not resting, it’s not giving which means sex outside of marriage in no way prepares you for sex inside marriage. It’s not the same thing and what they’re doing in the cohabitation is they’re learning to live together as consumers instead of as married partners as covenant partners which is a completely different thing. Now look, I see some of you like this, I know what I’m doing, I realize, I realize how difficult this is to listen to and I also realize how absolutely and completely countercultural it is and counterintuitive this is. But that’s just the first point.

The integrity of sex is there must be an integrity between body and life, you must not do with your body what you’re not willing to your whole life and that’s the first point, that’s just the ethic and sexual activity but now Jesus says on top of that, “all right you heard it said you mustn’t have sex outside of marriage” but he says “I want to talk to you about your mind and your thinking” and then he goes on and says “but I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Ah, now right away people say “oh there we go”. By the way some of you are to remember this but years ago Jimmy Carter, when he was the president, made a comment, you know he was a Sunday school teacher in a Baptist Church in Georgia and he made a comment that sometimes he was guilty of having lust in his heart for woman. And I tell you the comedian you know, the late night comedians had a field day for months with him. And he was just trying to be honest and the other hand what they think he means and what they think Jesus means here is that any kind of sexual desire, to find somebody sexually attractive or physically attractive is terrible and you’re going to hell but that’s not what Jesus was saying. First of all we know that because there are perfectly good words that he could’ve used for sexual desires but he doesn’t use them. He doesn’t use Matthew who translated into Greek, Jesus who spoke Aramaic, they’re perfectly good words that he could’ve used but he doesn’t use, he uses a particular interesting word, we’ll get to it in a minute but the other point is if you look at the whole bible, there is no way that the bible is negative about sexual desire. In fact, I’m looking at my time, if I had the time and I had the desire and it would’ve been so distracting, even though you’re New Yorkers, if I go passages of the bible and gave you literal translations of what it says, I can even make you blush. I could do it, I could do it. Listen, in the very beginning of the bible, Genesis 2, second chapter in the bible, what do we have? Remember when, do you remember when God brings Eve to Adam and Adam bursts into song, he bursts into a poem, a love poem, “this is now at last the bone of my bones, my flesh is my flesh”, either a love poem or it’s a so on... Don’t forget, they’re naked and so you start the, here’s how the bible starts. With a naked man singing rapturous love songs over a naked woman in the presence of God and that’s how the bible starts and that’s just the start. And if you get to, go to book of Proverbs. It’s a great passage where it says a wife needs a, a husband needs to be ravished with his wife’s breasts. There’s kind of no way around that one. And then, as somebody once said, a lot people said, “you’re not one of those fundamentalists that takes the bible literally are you?” Although there are sometimes there’s an advantage to taking the bible literally. And if you actually you go to the great love poem which many of you may have heard of the song of solomon which is a rapturous celebration of the glory of Mary’s sexual love, there are plenty of poetic places where the translators kind of chicken out, there’s plenty of places where it’s very clear that poetically, a man and a woman is being described in a state of physical arousal and they’re being described as being in a state of physical arousal. See my point is the bible is filled with bare faced exuberant rejoicing in the glory of sexual love and therefore there’s just no way you can get out of the bible, a negative view of sexual desire per se but that’s not what Jesus’ is saying here. Jesus uses the word and it’s an unusual word to be used with in connection to sex, it’s a word that means idolatry and particularly greed. He’s using a word that is usually, always means idolatry and usually refers to greed. And if you want to understand the kind of attitude towards sex that Jesus is talking about, let’s think about greed for just a second. Greed, is there something wrong with making money in the bible or having a lot of money? No. That’s another sermon right but the point is Abraham, Job, lots and lots of wealthy men, people with money who were blessed by God so that if having, making money and having a fair amount of money isn’t necessary wrong. Well what is greed then? First of all, it’s the desire to have the money for selfish reasons. You’re selfish, you want it for you, you don’t want it to share, you want it for you, you want to acquire things, it’s selfish, number one. Number two, it’s addicting. Greedy people are addicted to money, they have to have it. They must have it, so they’ll cut corners to get it. They’ll trample on people to get it. They’ll work too hard to get it. They’ll be workaholics, they’re addicted. So first of all, greed is selfishness with regards to money, secondly it’s addiction, thirdly there’s fantasies. One of the ways you know you’re greedy is you’re always fantasizing about what you’re going to do if you make this much or if you have this much. You’re fantasizing, I’ll buy this, I’ll have this, I’ll be able to retire, I’ll be able to do that, in other words you’re looking to money they give you the kind of deep affirmation and deep security that only God can give you. That’s greed and Jesus says, it’s very possible to have that same idolatrous attitude toward money, towards sex. How do we then see, what is he talking about when he’s talking about an idolatry, making sex into an idol like greed. Something that is used selfishly, something that is addicting, something that is filled with fantasies. Some, some way in which you’re looking to sex and sexual love to give you what only God can give you. What are some forms of that, let me give you four. Number one, pornography and masturbation with a pornography. Listen if I just, remember we just said sex is not for consuming, it’s not a consumer good, it’s for giving, it’s for serving, it’s not just for receiving, it’s not just for your self-fulfillment, my goodness well think about pornography and masturbation. I mean it’s so completely focused on yourself, you don’t even have another person. It’s a consumer good par excellence, you have it in the way, when you want it, you know in a particular kind you want it, you know, you buy it, it’s frictionless, it’s everything the bible says sex is not supposed to be, it’s exact opposite of everything. Is it addicting, sure. Is it selfish, absolutely. Does it bring about fantasies, I guess. Ok here’s the second form. All sex outside of marriage to some degree, remember we’ve already talked about this, all sex outside of marriage is essentially using sex selfishly rather using sex unselfishly. It’s also certainly, you know there’s a book that you need to read, I’ll mention it again, two sociologists wrote a book, a great book, Oxford University Press an empirical book, a scientific book, Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker, it’s called premarital sex in America, a sort of a snapshot and in the book they mention that the vast majority of people who have sex outside marriage, when asked why are you doing it say in order to keep the relationship going. In other words, we’ve been going together for certain number of weeks, we’ve been going together a certain number of months and at a certain point you have to do it to keep it going. Which is, which is the consumer approach of course. Which is the ah, you adjust to me or I’m outta here, I’m looking for an upgrade. Of course that’s, what is that? Is that a selfish use of sex, of course it is, it’s not there for serving, it’s not there for renewing your covenant, it’s there, it’s selfish. Here’s a third version, by the way. Just the belief, when I’m talking about sexual idolatry, just the belief that you can’t be a whole person and have a happy life without sex, just a belief, unless every so often unless I’m not having sex, I’m not a whole person I can’t be happy. The only person, the only object that you can look at, if you’re a Christian and say I have to have that to be happy as God, to say to anything else, well I need God but I also have that to be happy, anything else you’re putting that thing up there where God should be. Don’t believe what the culture says which is absolutely impossible for you to be a whole and developed person and have a happy life unless you have sex. And lastly and here is the most subtle form of sexual idolatry of all, it doesn’t feel sexual a bit. Do you have in your mind, this fairy tale dream of having the perfect marriage, having a perfect little family, perfect children, perfect home, do you just, does that make you say, “all that happen then I’d finally be happy, then I’d finally feel good about myself”, that doesn’t seem to be a sexual fantasy at all but you’re making sex and romantic into an idol. Oh yes you are and I’ll get back into that one second. Why is Jesus so strong about sexual idolatry, these various forms, look, suddenly he goes into this tirade, it looks like he’s getting advertised, he says, “if you’re right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If you’re right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away, it’s better for you”, what is that? Now he’s not speaking, he’s not speaking literally telling his disciples to pluck out their eye, to cut off their hand but he is talking about drastic behavior, why? This book by Regnerus and Uecker called Premarital Sex in America, has a certain section in which it shows that scientifically these particular myths are untrue. So they make a list of commonly held beliefs about sex and they show that scientifically, they’re just not true. Empirical evidence are not true. One of them is this, one of the things that they hear all the time from people is pornography won’t affect your relationships. You can have, you can use pornography and it’s not really going to, you know it’s your private thing, it’s not really going to affect your relationships and they counter and say, they quote “on the contrary, pornography now affects virtually everyone’s relationships. Everyone, not just the people who use pornography. Pornography now affects virtually everyone’s relationships and they say three things they can prove empirically. Number one, people who use pornography have crushingly unrealistic expectations regarding physical appearance and sexual performance. First of all, crushingly unrealistic expectations about what a particular, I love partner or a marriage partner must look like and how they must perform. Secondly, they said, he says “a significant number of male porn users experience a diminished tolerance for the difficulties of real relationships and that shrinks the marriage pull for women.” They say studies have proven that men who use pornography are far far less interested and willing to get out into the messiness of real relationships and as a result, far more, pornography diminishes people’s desire to get married and is one of the reasons why the marriage, that why the pool is shrinking and why the marriage number of people who are getting married is going down and here’s number three, “all women, they argue, we argue, it’s a quote, “all woman we argue are increasingly being forced to accommodate sexual behavior and their appearances so the images in the style of pornography.” Whether you know it or not, the fashion industry’s doing it, your boyfriend’s doing it, other people are doing it. Women they are argue, are increasingly being forced to accommodate sexual behavior appearance, sexual behaviors and their appearances to images and style of porn. Now you see why Jesus says, “look how this damages you, look how this damages us.” And when he uses the eye and hand, he’s just saying, it does, be drastic what does it take, what do you have to do, what lengths do you have to go to, who do you have to see. Whatever it is, get it out of your life, stop it. The idolatry of sexuality and love will destroy you. Learning to use it selfishly, making it a consumer good, getting addicted to it. Looking to it to give you the kind of deep affirmation and enclosure and consultation that only God can give you and that leads us to the last point. How are we really going to be delivered, how can we be delivered.

Jesus hints at it when he talks about hell. Some people say this is over the top, why does he talk about hell. You know there’s several words he could have used for hell and the word he uses here is the word “gehenna” and it’s a word that, it’s one of the images for hell in the bible and there really was a gehenna place, it was a place outside of Jerusalem where the garbage was burned. And so gehenna gets at the idea that hells is a place of unquenchable thirst and unfulfilled longing. When you, God, we were built to know him and therefore if we lose God, the ability to have our deepest needs satisfied, we lose as well. And so hell means when you God, this is only one aspect that the bible tells about hell, it means among other things, it means unfulfilled longing. Deep, deep unquenchable thirst and what Jesus is saying here is, sex outside of marriage points towards that, does it not? Because sex holds out the promise of such consolation, of such closure, such affirmation and yet as we’ve seen sex outside of marriage destroys your ability to really be yourself, it destroys your ability, your freedom and so there’s a certain sense in which if you’re out there having sex, thinking sex is going to give me what I really want, your a little bit like a person dying of thirst on a raft in the ocean water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. And Jesus says, “if sex outside of a covenant points towards hell, sex inside of a covenant points to what? Why is it in Romans seven, why is it in Ephesians five, the bible says that the most rapturous sexual love between husband and a wife is just a dim foretaste and pointer to what it’s going to be like to fall into the arms of your true spouse at the end of time. When Jesus was talking to the woman at the well, Samaritan women in John chapter 4, he says I have got a water that if you drink it, you’ll never thirst again. In other words, I can satisfy your deepest needs, those unfulfilled longings and needs I can satisfy them. I have a water that if you drink, you’ll never thirst again and she says, “sir give me this water”, remember what he says though, “bring me your husband, kind of non-sequitur. She says “sir I don’t have a husband, he says no, no you’ve had five husbands and the man you’re living with right now is not your husband.” Why does he, why was he talking about her messed up sex life? And the answer is, he says I can satisfy your longings, she says tell me how I can have my longing satisfied and what he’s actually saying is, you’ve been looking for it in men, you’ve been looking for, see this is lust, this is what Jesus is talking about, you’ve been trying to find it in the arms of men, the kind of deep consolation, deep love, and deep closure that only I can give you. And she said to him, “sir, I see that you’re a prophet.” This morning at the 9:15 service, my wife Kathy was sitting right over here and looked down at her and she knew what I was going to say and that was this, if she doesn’t love Jesus more than she loves me, she’s not going to be able to love me well, why? Even inside marriage you can be guilty of sexual idolatry. If she doesn’t love Jesus and get love from Jesus at a level. If her relationship with Christ is not more important than a relationship with me, then she’s going to look to me and I’m going to look to her, if I don’t, I have to do the same thing of course, if, we are going to look to each other to fulfill each other in a way that only God can do it and we’re going to crush each other. Everything that goes wrong, anytime she doesn’t live the way, you know, it will fall into a consumer relationship. You have to adjust to me, no you have to adjust to me, see. In other words, if Jesus isn’t are my main spouse, if Jesus isn’t her main spouse, if the spousal love of Christ isn’t the main thing that gives us a place of acceptance where we can be ourselves. The main thing that gives us freedom, the main thing that gives us that deep rich sense of being loved, now I’m going to make even my own marriage, I’m going to, I’m going to be guilty of sexual idolatry, I’m going to be trying to make Kathy into something that only Christ can be for me and she’s going to do the same thing for me, you will never be well married unless Jesus Christ is the spouse of your soul and His love is the most important thing in your life and you will never be well, you’ll never be single well, you’ll never be married well. “Sir, she said I see that you’re a prophet.” Look to his spousal love and then and only then, will you be in a position to avoid the great danger that we have, that especially in this culture that we’re living in and our approach to love and marriage will be a pointer to our relationship with Him.


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