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This week's teaching: "Sex, Shame, and Forgiveness"
We've all done things that we're ashamed of, but sexual sin is a unique kind of shame. Now, I say this because I've spent the last two weeks teaching on sexuality from a Christian perspective. And I've dealt with sexual morality and sexual immorality, meaning there are some things that are right and some things that are wrong; some things sexually that God permits us to do and invites us to do, and then things that God says, you're not allowed to do that. And it's very clear in the scriptures.
Now, I named that so that we can pursue God out of a right heart; so that we can pursue righteousness and holiness and honor him in the choices that we make. The last thing that I would want to do is inflict a hopelessness on people who have been sexually immoral.
And so today I want to pronounce forgiveness. I want to pronounce forgiveness on all things sexually immoral. For anyone who has engaged in sexual immorality, where you experience that unique shame, I want to pronounce forgiveness over it.
But to get there, let me talk about some things.
To understand sexual shame and the uniqueness of it, we can look at different ways that we relate to sexuality.
If someone steals your car, yeah, that feels like a violation. If they steal your virginity, that's a violation to the nth degree.
If you've been engaged in reckless spending to where you are broke, yeah, there's a certain kinda hopelessness to that. But if you've been engaged in reckless promiscuity to where you are just broken hearted, there's a hopelessness times ten to that.
If you have an addiction where you hit the bottle when no one's looking, yeah, there's a certain kind of shame to that. If you have an addiction to where you hit the porn sites when no one is looking, there's a shame times ten to that.
There's something unique about sexuality where it sits with us deep in our core. The shame that we live with around sexual sin can be like a rotten core. Like a rotten core of a fruit that looks good on the outside, but it's rotting from the inside. And something just is hollow inside. Something is dark. Something is objectionable and feels like death on the inside. And that is the unique shame that is associated with sexual sin.
Now, I'm not saying that there's no such thing as heartless shameless sex. Of course there is. We can be heartless and shameless about all sorts of things. There's heartless and shameless murder. There's heartless and shameless drug use. There's heartless and shameless gambling. There's heartless and shameless gossip. We can be heartless and shameless about all sorts of things.
I'm not saying there's no such thing as heartless and shameless sex. Of course there is. But where there is shame, it's a unique kind of shame.
And I'm also not saying that shame is the measure of sin. You can be ashamed about things that actually aren't wrong. There's cultural shame where simply not conforming to a cultural standard will inflict a sense of shame. In a setting where women are supposed to have their head covered, if the head covering is taken off, there's shame. In scripture, at one point , some men were captured and they cut off their beards. They felt such shame that they allowed them to go someplace else until their beards grew back so they wouldn't be so ashamed. There's cultural shame that isn't a matter of sin. It's just a matter of standards.
And there's also shame that can be inflicted on you, unjustly, through abusers who shame you into thinking something about yourself that actually isn't true, that has nothing to do with sin . It simply is a shame inflicted on you.
Shame is no measure of sin. But where there is shame for sin, where we are conscience stricken about the wrong things that we've done, the shame for sexual sin is especially grievous. And again, today I wanna pronounce forgiveness over this. There is hope at the end of this conversation.
In Genesis 1, 2, and 3, it's the depiction, it's the story of God creating all that is. And in it, it talks about how God created Adam and Eve. And it says in the end of chapter two, verse 25, "Adam and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame."
Now, in this setting, God has put them in the Garden of Eden and he said that you can eat of all the fruits except for this one fruit, there's a tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That's the only one I don't want you to eat from. And it says they were naked and they felt no shame.
Then as we read on into chapter three the serpent who represents Satan tempts them to eat the forbidden fruit and they do. They disobey God in that one thing.
And as we read in this, it says, verse seven. "Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized they were naked. So they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves."
And then it says that God called out to the man and said, "Where are you?" And Adam answered, "I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid."
Now at this point, they were even covered with fig leaves, but he says, "But I was naked, so I hid." They went from being naked and feeling no shame to being clothed with fig leaves and feeling naked and ashamed.
And then God said, "Well, who told you you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?" And the man blamed the woman and all that. And so everything goes on until the end of this part of the story, verse 21, God chose mercy and it says, "The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them."
Now the interesting thing here is, so they were naked and they felt no shame. Some versions would say, "naked and unashamed." And we can read that as they were not ashamed because of their nakedness. Because we relate to nakedness as a shame.
There was one time when I was, I don't know, 11 or 12 years old, 10 years old, I don't know. I didn't realize my mom's friend was there, and I walked out of the shower naked. And it still sits with me as this shame of nakedness.
We can read this " naked and unashamed" as being, "Wow, they were naked and they didn't even feel ashamed about it!" Or we could read it as, "They were fully exposed and they felt no shame about themselves." So being fully exposed was not a problem.
We could flop that and say, and they were unashamed and naked. They were unashamed and fully exposed. They felt no shame and they were fully exposed.
And yet when they disobeyed God and did the thing that he said not to do, suddenly they were naked and ashamed. They were exposed and they felt shame. And it wasn't that they felt shame because suddenly they didn't have clothes on. They were ashamed. And fully exposed.
The sin of Adam and Eve was not that they were naked. It was not that they didn't have clothes on. The sin was that they disobeyed God. The sin was that they sinned. They did what God said not to do. And it wasn't just breaking some arbitrary rule where God says, "I'm gonna test you. I'm gonna put that thing there. It looks pretty sweet. Just don't eat it. I'm gonna test you. See what you're really made of. Test your mettle." It wasn't breaking an arbitrary rule. It was breaking free from the rule of God. It was breaking free from the confines of paradise that God said, "This is all yours, but here's the boundaries. Don't do that thing." And they broke free from that.
And they went from "unashamed and naked" to being "ashamed and naked." And their instinct was the same as ours. They covered up. They looked around and they said, "What can we cover up with? What can we hide ourselves with?" And the fig leaves looked good, and so they started covering themselves with fig leaves.
Today we do the same thing. When we are ashamed and feel exposed, we look around for something that can cover us up so we don't feel so exposed. And we might find some doctrines of men, teachings of men that would say, " Well, freedom to do whatever you do. If you just take that as your creed that you live by, you can cover up your nakedness with just a new way of looking at it."
"Hey, it doesn't matter what I do. I'm free to do whatever!" Or "I have the right to do whatever!"
And even in a Christian context, "God has set me free from the law. I can do whatever."
We look for things to cover up our nakedness, to cover up wherever we feel exposed in our shame. We look for permission: "Hey, it used to be wrong. Now it's right. You can just do it. It's okay." We look for acceptance: "I know that in the past this was taboo, but you know what? We're going to accept you." And we look for fig leaves to put over ourselves because we feel ashamed and naked.
Rather than dealing with the shame, our instinct is to cover up the nakedness, to find something to clothe ourselves with. Adam and Eve did it, and today we still do it.
But better yet, God's design has always been that we would be unashamed and naked, not ashamed and hidden. Unashamed and exposed, not ashamed and hidden.
Now he gives grace. In Christ he comes and he clothes your shame with his flesh. It says he made garments of skin. In John 1, we read that "In the beginning, the word [Jesus] was with God, and the word was God." And we read that "the word became flesh and dwelt among us." And as we read on in the scriptures, we find that the word -- Jesus, who became flesh -- laid down his life for us. In essence he took humanity to the grave and buried it and was raised back up victorious so that he can give life to all who look to him; so that he can cover up the shame of all who look to him; so you can stop hiding behind the fig leaves of excuses and permissions.
All we need to do is simply go to him and confess our shame. Not try to hide the shame. Confess our shame. And here's the beauty: "When we confess our sins, he is faithful and just..." -- this is 1st John 1 -- "when we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and forgives us of our sins."
And so we don't need to cover it up. We can say, "Here I am, God." We can be fully unashamed and naked, fully unashamed and exposed, by revealing our shame, confessing our shame, owning it, and saying, "God, I'm not gonna hide from you. Here I am. Here I am."
And so today -- and I'm gonna read Psalm 103 in just a bit -- but today, if you are someone who has sinned sexually and you're living with that shame, I don't want you to hear, "You should be ashamed of yourself." I mean, you should experience the shame of it. It is a shameful thing, but I don't want you to hear, "You should be ashamed of yourself." I want you to hear: Come to God and confess the shame. Stop hiding behind the fig leaves. Come to God and say, "Lord, this is who I've been and I feel ashamed. This is what I've done and I feel ashamed. Forgive me? I confess my sin. Forgive me?
Psalm 103 says, "Praise the Lord my soul. All my inmost being praise His holy name. Praise the Lord my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases; who redeems your life from the pit, and crowns you with love and compassion; who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses." We looked at that a couple weeks ago. "His deeds to the people of Israel."
And then it says this: "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever. He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him. And as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him."
You can read the rest of it.
With the Lord there is forgiveness. If you live with shame, don't hide it behind fig leaves of excuses. And especially, don't just lean into the thing that caused shame in the first place. To call wrong right won't remove the shame. It may numb you to it, but it won't fix the problem.
With the Lord there is forgiveness. And he will come to you and he will wipe away all your shame and he'll take everything wrong you've done and remove it as far from you as the east is from the west.
This is his nature. This is his love for you. This is his compassion. And this is the promise held out in the gospel. And so it's what I leave you with: Confess your sins to the Lord. Seek his mercy. Call out to him and he will forgive you.
And so if you are one who fears him -- meaning you revere him, you bow your life to him, you orient your life to him, you call out to him, "Lord, I want to know you! want to live honorably for you!" -- If you are that person, he forgives you. You are washed clean. You are washed, clean!
And so over you I pronounce forgiveness because the Lord declares you are forgiven in Jesus' name.
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