There is a great difference in excellency, usefulness, and comfort between people of clear, digested knowledge, and confused, undigested apprehensions. -Richard Baxter

sex in the Spirit

this from a little ditty on Galatians 5:16-26 a couple years ago

Moulin Rouge Say “desires of the flesh” in mixed company and you’re likely to get what? Smirks, chuckles, and people moving quietly away from you. Why? Because it seems an outdated phrase, or that those desires are, instead of reviled, now championed, exalted. What am I getting at? These desires are what many people would reason: “those are good things; they’re what make life worth living. Any proscription of them is just an outdated attempt at keeping people in line; or they’re overreactions to otherwise harmless expressions of pathos.”

But Paul puts these out here. And we’d be wise to consider what they’re really expressions of. Most people would see them for the most part as essentially harmless. But Paul means not only to clarify what is in opposition to the life guided and led by the Spirit, but to expose what those kind of expressions reveal about those who engage in them. For every single one of them—every single of these fleshly desires—is a good desire gone bad. A perfectly natural and holy desire twisted into something destructive, and in the end, pleasure-killing rather than pleasure-finding. They are desires divorced from their intended ends.

Consider fornication: Sexual intercourse is a wondrous gift of God; it allows two people to engage in a kind of intimacy that nothing else can replicate. It is an expression of self-giving that no word or gift can communicate, and in that expression much is received.

But fornication seeks to take that goodness and divorce it from the context in which it might be protected, enriched, and perpetuated. It places sex outside the protection of trust, because no commitment of steadfast love and concern accompanies its expression. So it is intimacy with risk, which compromises the intimacy in that the giving access to one’s most intimate parts is not met with a promise to honor that gift with enduring respect, admiration, and protection. Outside the marital commitment—a commitment buttressed by the fact that it is a vow made to something outside one’s own will (God)—that kind of trust cannot exist because it relies solely on the integrity of the other. That integrity, grounded in nothing other than his or her own will, is flimsy when you consider how easily it falters; our souls are susceptible to weakness, conflictedness, self-interest. Unless something outside our own wills governs our choices and commitments, the amount of trust one can place in another’s promise of commitment is limited to their own ability to maintain that integrity.

Remember the Narcoleptic Argentinian in Moulin Rouge: “where there is no trust, there can be no love.” Within fornication, passion and ecstasy can certainly reign, but trust cannot; that trust can be feigned by the one promising commitment and it can be assumed (or imagined) by the one hoping to seek that commitment from another. But it cannot persist. It cannot live without something else sturdier to validate it, to support it.

So fornication is a good desire gone bad. And the life apart from the Spirit will see no reason not to engage in it, which is itself a pitiable thing: like watching a child think he can nourish himself with a plastic apple; he can chew it and lick it, but he cannot eat it; it will do him no good.

Those who belong to Christ—who trust in Him and His work on their behalf, who have been obtained through His blood—have now begun to see what the flesh desires for the bankruptcy and deception that it is. Through the Spirit’s help, what the flesh desires no longer has the allure it once did; that’s the first work of the Spirit: to unmask the flesh’s true identity. With the allure now failing, the Spirit gives us power to resist its wiles—to find courage and insight to refuse its promises and, instead, to take hold of its opposite, to value it more and therein practice it as a function of one’s own desire rather than mere blithe compliance with some stricture. Surely we’ve not yet had our taste for what the flesh serves up fully replaced for what the Spirit offers; but the process has begun, and the death sentence for the flesh has been issued. Only time separates this moment from its eventual execution.

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