There’s Nothing Better than Jesus! Except Sex
Jesus does something in John 8 that definitively proves he’s the Messiah. His actions confirm that he is sinless and his compassion should move us to imitate him. In John 8 Jesus is teaching in the temple courts. People have gathered around him because no one taught like Jesus or told stories like Jesus. As he’s teaching, the religious leaders, who did not believe in him, bring in a nearly naked or naked young woman who they claim was caught in the act of having sex with a man who is not her husband.
What Jesus does for this young woman is what I would want Jesus to do for me and for you, but before we finish the story let’s pause for a moment and talk about what this young woman is accused of doing. She’s accused of adultery. Adultery is having sex with someone who is not your spouse. Adultery is one of many sexual sins listed in the Word of God. Today is week #2 of a series I began last Sunday called “There’s nothing better than Jesus except…” I don’t know your exceptions but the three that take most people down are - Money, sex and power. Last Sunday we talked about power. Today we are going to talk about sex and next Sunday we’ll talk about money. Now if you are watching online for the first time or visiting us in-person for the first time I actually feel little bad. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m delighted you are here. I’m delighted that you are watching. But you had no pre-warning about my topic! I can picture the Yelp reviews. I came to the Westerville Christian Church and the minister talked about sex. Of all the topics in the world, why did he pick sex? Here’s why. (Video – Sex is… – 2:55)
Love the ending of that video and the thought that God loves sex makes me happy. God created sex for three reasons. The first is intimacy. Sex creates a bond between a husband and wife that’s deep and intimate. Sometimes when you read the word “know” in Scripture it means sex. He knows her in a way that no one else does. Sex creates intimacy. The second reason for sex is procreation or having kids. Here is an interesting statistic. “U.S. birth and fertility rates in 2020 dropped to their lowest levels since 1979. The U.S. birth rate is so low. Well, Greg, how low is it? I’m glad you asked. It’s so low it’s “below replacement levels” which means more people die every day than are being born.[i] Obviously, COVID-19 did not create a baby boom. The third reason for sex is pleasure. It just feels good. Which can lead people to do some crazy stuff. Author/Blogger Ed Feser[ii] said, “It is not surprising that the satisfaction sexual pleasure promises can lead us to do all sorts of deeply irrational things. For just a few moments of sexual pleasure, many people will risk damage to their reputations and the breaking up of marriages and families. Sexual passion can prevent people from seeing that a certain person is simply not a suitable marriage partner. Romantic and sexual jealousy can tempt people to spy on and stalk the object of their affections or even commit murder.”[iii]
Murder! Pleasure can lead us to do the unthinkable. God created sex for three reasons and those reasons are good. If your marriage is struggling it might be one of these three reasons. Intimacy. You stopped talking. You exist in the same house but you are not close. You work allot so what results is distance not intimacy. Have you heard of Grey Divorce?[iv] It’s people 55 and older who are getting divorced after 25 to 30 years of marriage. They just drifted away from each other. If you marriage is solely for your kids one of both of you will be left out. That can’t make your marriage better. Men want sex because it makes them feel close to the wives. Women want to feel close before sex. This is because men & women see sex differently.
This is Genesis 2:25: Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. They were vulnerable and intimate. That’s so good. But Satan took the gift of sex and twisted it into an act that can bring so much shame.
Shame is a painful feeling of humiliation. Type “yes” in the online chat if you’ve ever felt shame. Raise your hand if you’ve felt shame. Shame drives us back to the story of Jesus in John 8. In John 8 Jesus is teaching in the temple courts. As he’s teaching, the religious leaders, who did not believe in him, bring in a nearly naked young woman who they claim was caught in the act of adultery. Can you imagine the shame she must have felt? They make her stand before the group and then they say this to Jesus in John 8:4. John 8:4-5: “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”
The Law does say that. This is Leviticus 20:10. (Read) Isn’t someone missing? The woman is present, but where is the man? The religious leaders had set this whole thing up. Verse 6 tells us that the only reason the religious leaders are humiliating this woman is to trap Jesus. They hate him so much because Jesus claimed to be living water / the Messiah in John 7. They’ll use anyone to get rid of him. Now what I want to know is what did Jesus say? Well at first he doesn’t say anything. Jesus bent down and started scribbling in the dirt with his finger. The religious leaders press him to answer the question. C’mon Jesus, what do you say? If Jesus says, Don’t stone her. They’ll say he can’t be from God because he doesn’t obey God’s law. If he says, Yeah, let’s stone her. The people will accuse him of being less than compassionate plus he’s now overriding the Romans. Only the Romans could put someone to death.
Finally Jesus stands up and says these words in John 8:7. “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” That’s brilliant. Jim Burgen is a minister in Boulder, Colorado. Jim said, “Jesus implied a terrifying truth in that statement: “All sinners deserve to be condemned. So if you want, we can start with her and work our way through the crowd passing out judgment and punishment until only the perfect people are left.”[v]
Once Jesus said what he said he stooped back down. I bet you could have heard a pin drop. No one says a word. People start dropping their rocks and then walk away – older ones first because they know they are sinners. The religious leaders were trying to humiliate Jesus but they up being humiliated. Soon the only two people in the temple courts are Jesus and this young woman. Jesus asks her, “Has no condemned you?” And she answers, “No one, sir.” Jesus finishes their conversation with words filled with both grace and truth. Jesus said to her in John 8:11: “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Jesus didn’t condemn her. Jesus didn’t condone her. Jesus lived in the tension between grace and truth. Let me now ask two questions. One’s personal and one’s practical. Here’s the personal question. What kind of Christ follower do you want to be? Do you want to be one of those creepy, “judgy” Christ followers who’s always pointing out other people’s sins but ignoring their own? Here’s the practical question. What kind of church would honor Jesus? May I suggest one answer for both questions. People who imitate Jesus. I want to be a Christ follower who imitates Jesus. I want to be a part of church that imitates Jesus. I want to be a part of a church that lives in the tension of both grace and truth. This is John 1:17: For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
Here’s what happens when you speak truth without grace. Man, you are fat! Geez, how much weight have you gained in the last month. That all might be true, but without grace it comes across has harsh and rude. Here’s what happens when you speak grace with no truth. Your weight is not big deal. Who cares about what you eat. East whatever you want. I mean, it’s not going to kill you. Yes, it can. When it comes to this endless topic of sex how can we, the church, respond to people using both grace & truth?
According to God, what is the truth about sex? Start with Jesus and this woman in John 8. He didn’t condemn her, but he didn’t condone her life. Our culture is saying that if you don’t agree with someone’s lifestyle, you can’t be their friend. Be their friend anyway. Jesus repeats Genesis 2:24 in Matthew 19. That the best sex is between a man and woman committed to each other. Paul spoke about God’s will all throughout 1stThessalonians. He said this in chapter 4. (Read 1stThessalonians 4: 3-8). All of what we just read is true.
So how do we respond to people’s questions or belief about sexual freedom with grace? People come from all kinds of perspectives and experiences. Here them out and point them to God. Have you ever heard of Dr. Juli Slattery? Juli is a clinical psychologist and co-founder of Authentic Intimacy. (Website) AI is a ministry devoted to reclaiming God’s design for sexuality. Juli discusses three narratives when it comes to God, gender and sexuality.[vi]
The first is the Cultural Narrative. 30% of women under the age of 25 identify as lesbian, bisexual or transgender. This narrative is fueled by a humanistic world view that life is all about self-actualization. I want to live out my authentic self which might be LGBTQ, or practicing polygamy or being a parent who wants to marry their own child. A man in New York filed a lawsuit because he believes that incest laws are unconstitutional.[vii] That’s crazy. That’s evil. God says – don’t call evil good. This story is being told again and again. God wants me to be happy and I can’t be happy unless I live my life my way.
The second is the Purity Narrative. It’s the traditional/religious view. It goes like this. If you want to please God you will stay pure until you get married. And if you do, God will bring you a wonderful spouse and you will live happily ever after. But here’s the problem. Happily ever after is the stuff of movies not real life. I can hear people voicing their frustrations. I stayed pure but marriage never came. I stayed pure but sex was awful. I stayed pure but my husband left me. I stayed pure but life didn’t turn the way it was supposed to so now I’m confused.
The third narrative is the Biblical Narrative. The Bible says God created sex and sex is good. But the Bible also says that we live in a fallen world where the enemy will go after what’s sacred. Sex is sacred. Satan uses sex to trap, confuse, distract and condemn us. Be humble because when it comes to sex, we all fall short. That includes Noah, King David, King Solomon, & the late Ravi Zacharias. So imitate Jesus. Speak truth but give grace.
When we judge people who don’t believe in God we insinuate that we are sinless. But we’re not. Jesus is. The only person in the crowd who could have picked up the stone was Jesus, but he didn’t. “Instead of giving her want she deserved, he gave her what she needed.”[viii] Isn’t that the best way to live?
In just a few minutes we’re going to sing Graves into Gardens - “There’s nothing better than Jesus.” It’s true because only Jesus can forgive you. So what is your next step? Is it to accept Jesus’ offer of forgiveness? Is it to be baptized? Just meet me right here. I’ll have you repeat these words. I believe that Jesus is the Christ… I’ll take you down into the water and bring you right back up. For anyone watching online, tell us you want to be baptized. We’ll reach to you. Is your next step to come pray this prayer? Father, help me to imitate Jesus. (PRAY)
[i] https://mailchi.mp/397e6620c0e0/daily-briefing-september-18-137535?e=ed180f12f6 [ii] https://crossexamined.org/the-ravi-zacharias-scandal-and-the-truth-of-christianity/ [iii] http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2015/01/whats-deal-with-sex-part-i.html [iv] https://mailchi.mp/68000ab0fb44/daily-briefing-september-18-137531?e=ed180f12f6 [v] Jim Burgen, No More Dragons, 34-35 [vi] https://churchleaders.com/podcast/393864-juli-slattery-lgbtq-conversation.html [vii] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/marry-child-incest-legal-ny-b1830704.html [viii] Jim Burgen, No More Dragons, 36