Steven Furtick — Meant to Be
We're starting this series today, which I have boldly called, the title is meant to be but the subtitle says it's the Bible's Best Kept Secrets About Sex, Marriage, and Being Single. I say it because I'm going to preach from a chapter of scripture for the next five weeks that I haven't heard a lot of preachers preach from because it's very bizarre.
Turn in your Bible to 1 Corinthians 7. Last week we said goodbye to Jacob in our series Death to Selfie. I have been mourning the loss of Jacob all week. I enjoyed preaching about him so much, and I've been in mourning this week, just like not even wanting to move on, but we've got to go now.
I like to teach and preach in several different styles, as well. I don't think that you should come to church and just be addicted to one style of ministry, one style of music, or one style of preaching. So I would say our last series was a pretty preachy series; give you a lot of opportunities to get up on your feet and respond to God's word.
I want to teach a little bit over the next five weeks and just get into this one chapter of scripture, and just take it verse-by-verse and see what God has to say to us about the relationships in our lives. I wanted to do it in a way that would feel fresh, so I have it divided up each week into this is the week for the single people, and this is the week for the married people, and this is the week... I didn't want to do that because it's so predictable, so I'm going to let the scripture be our guide, which is probably a good idea anyway, rather than me dividing up my opinions of what I think you need to hear about; just let the text set the trajectory of the series.
So, whereas in our last series, we covered, I think twelve chapters of scripture, give or take, we're only going to stay in one for this five-week series and just take these verses and see what God would say to us today. I know he'll speak to your situation wherever you are. He has the ability to do that. And only he can.
I mean, this is a supernatural thing that we can have people in the room who are on their fourth marriage, and people in the room who are 14 years old, and God can, through his word, just divide it and get you the portion that you need and the way you need to hear, and we're praying that he would do that, and we're believing for some really great things in this series.
Let's get to it. I'm taking up all my time in introductory remarks, and I've got a lot to say to you; God's put a lot of my heart. 1 Corinthians 7:1-7. I'll read it really fast, and then I'll back up and take it apart a little bit this week. You'll need to come several weeks of this series or you're going to get an imbalanced view of what we're trying to say. I cannot possibly address everything in the opening week, so you're going to have to take some initiative for this to really make a difference in your life, and we believe that it will.
1 Corinthians 7:1-7, Paul says, "Now for the matters you wrote about, It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman, but since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise, the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but yields it to her husband, and the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other, except, perhaps, by mutual consent, and for a time so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am, but each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that."
Let's go back to verse 1 to begin our study today where Paul says, "Now for the matters you wrote about. It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman." The title of my message today, appropriately I think, is It Is Good for a Man Not to Have Sexual Relations with a Woman. If you're looking for a title to put on top of your worship guide there, this is the title; usually they're catchier and a little punchier, but this week we're just going to go with exactly what Paul said in the text, and we're going to talk about it is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.
How many of you agree with the Apostle Paul here on this point that it is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman? If you're uncomfortable already at this point in the sermon, you should definitely go to ekids, I'm sure they'd make an exception for you as well. It's going to get a lot more awkward than this.
I know there's a guy that is looking at the title of my sermon today saying, oh crap, I hate this church, because this is the way you've always viewed church when it comes to matters of sexuality, it's like, you know, Paul is actually single when he's writing this.
Most scholars believe that he had a wife at one point but she died, because to have a position like he had in Hebrew culture and Jewish culture, he would have had a wife, he would have been required to have a wife, but he doesn't have a wife anymore, we find out in the chapter, and she probably has died because he would have not been permitted to divorce and then keep his position.
So he probably had a wife and she died, but now he's saying it is good for a man to not have sexual relations with a woman, and part of us thinks, is Paul like the guy who, because he isn't, you know, getting any, we're not allowed to either, which is how the church is often seen; you guys don't have any sex, so you've spend all your time trying to keep all the rest of us from having sex as well.
There's a tendency to think that that's what Paul is doing here. But in order to understand the text, you do have to understand the context. It's always an important thing, so I want to walk you through this now. I won't take long. I'm just introducing the topic this week and we'll get more in-depth in the coming weeks. I just want to have a conversation, and open the conversation with you from this chapter of scripture that was originally part of a letter that Paul wrote to a church at Corinth that was experiencing great division and dysfunction.
And Paul, like a good pastor, is taking the questions of the people in the culture of their day with the complications they were facing, and he's speaking in to culture. The first thing, I have four of these that we want to talk about today, is the tension between questions and issues, the tension between questions and issues.
See, if you notice here in the first verse of this chapter, before Paul says, "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman," he says in his introductory phrase, "Now for the matters you wrote about."
So apparently the Corinthian church had put together a list of questions for the great Apostle Paul, and they asked him questions, a list of questions, "Hey, Paul, here's what we need to know about. Here's what we're dealing with." And in this list, you're about to see Paul answer many of their questions in 1 Corinthians 7, like what about widows, and what about people who have been divorced, and okay if you choose to be celibate, is that okay, are people who choose to be single more spiritual than people who choose to be married, and on and on.
And he's about to answer their questions, but I want to point out the fact that it's been six chapters and he's just now getting around to answering their questions. Here's why: because often there's a big difference between the questions that we ask, and the real issues that we're dealing with. God is not nearly has concerned with answering our questions as he is with dealing with our real issues.
So Paul does something really, really unique, he goes through six chapters where he doesn't even mention their questions, and he tells them the answers to the questions that they should be asking. Like, check this out, in 1 Corinthians 5, here's one, he says, hey, it's actually reported, like I heard this report that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that not even pagans will put up with, like people who don't even know God don't do this.
You've got a man in your church who's sleeping with his father's wife, so Paul addresses that issue in chapter 5. Then in chapter 6 he gets to another issue, he says, do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself; shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? So there's widespread prostitution rings in Corinth, and Paul finds out that some of the church members are going and doing this on the side.
Now they didn't put that in their list of questions that they sent to Paul, but Paul knew about it. So he spends the first six chapters saying, hey, I know there's incest in the church. Stop that. Hey, I heard some of you are going to hookers. Cut it out. Now for the questions you wrote me about. Sometimes the questions that we ask are not the questions that we're really living. Sometimes the questions that we ask don't really indicate the depth of the issues that we really face.
We have three children, right? Three children. Yeah, three children, and we'll probably stay right there. Holly will look at me many times, this has happened many times, especially in the last year, and she'll ask me a simple question when the kids are, perhaps, out of hand she'll say, "Do you need me to make you an appointment, or are you going to make the appointment?" In other words, three is good.
So that's where we're at in our family planning. So when we had our little girl, because our two boys are older and our little girl is three, and everybody will tell me it's different with girls, it's different with girls, it's different with girls, it's different with girls, it's different with girls; I'm sure I do not understand the full extent of that claim yet, and I won't for some time.
I did, however, happen to walk by my daughter on the way out to preach today, and guess what she was doing, she was looking at pictures of wedding dresses on an iPhone. She is three. One of our staff members named Caroline, who is getting married, was showing my daughter pictures of wedding dresses. First, I fired Caroline, and second, I told Abby, "Put the phone down. Step away from the phone, this is ridiculous."
And that's just one of the many differences. I've never seen Elijah look at wedding dresses on an iPhone; never. Never. But one of the things I have noticed, and this is probably the most evident way that it is different, even with Abby only being three, is not just in the types of things that she wants to talk about, but the amount that she wants to talk about everything, which I thought was a trait unique to Holly.
It shocked me when we first got married, and I have a very blessed marriage, okay, and I don't mind sharing with you about how our marriage is blessed. When I used to do relationship series, I would start with a preface, hey, you know, we've only been married for a couple of years and I know that many of you have been married a lot longer and I don't have a right to tell you about marriage, but I realize this, in this series, I've been married 12 years now, and I think that's long enough, I'm out of rookie camp.
We've been through some things together now, we've weathered a few seasons together now, and yes there are many who have been married much longer, and I probably will not write a parenting book yet until till I have successfully shepherded my children through their teenage years without homicide occurring in our home, but I do think I don't have to get up and apologize anymore.
We have a marriage and I have some things to say about marriage. We have a blessed marriage, and we're in ministry together, and we love each other. Hey, it's not perfect. It's not. It's not perfect, but it's blessed. It's a blessed marriage, and there's a difference. There is no perfect marriage, but there is a blessed marriage. We have a blessed marriage, man.
It's true, and I want you to know that because you wouldn't walk in a gym and hire a trainer who was fatter than you are. Is that inappropriate to say? I just thought it was kind of instinctive, like I don't look for the guy who doesn't look better than me and ask him to help me sculpt my body, so you don't want a preacher with a jacked-up marriage, and I'm just saying we have struggles, we have issues, but we love each other, and our family's in church.
So, anyway, with that being said, one of the things that I found very difficult in our marriage is that when I ask Holly a question, she not only answers that question, but I found that she will answer all of the questions that she believes I should have asked before she answers the question that I did ask.
So I've had to learn to budget my time appropriately when I ask her things like how was your day, or just a simple question like when I say how was lunch today. I know you had lunch today with Nicole, how was lunch today? Because when I ask her that, she will answer it but she will not start with lunch, she'll start with when she woke up 15 minutes late and she was already in a hurry, and we had to get the kids to school.
Now the kids have been late two times, so we don't want them to be late for a third time this semester, so she got them to school, but when she dropped them off at school she remembered that she had that thing in the back of her car that needed to go back to Target, but then she realized she needed more gas in the car.
Now the gas in cheaper at the gas station on the other side of Target so I didn't know if I should wait, but I stopped by Target. While I was in line at Target, I met a lady who said she went to the church, and I couldn't tell if she comes a lot or if she just comes a little bit, but she was from New Jersey, and she said she just moved to Charlotte.
And she moved to Charlotte because her husband's in the banking industry, and she was telling me about how their home in New Jersey, and I'm going, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. In this story you're telling, we're only at 8:30 in the morning. Is this going to be real time? I want to hear everything you had to say. I am so captivated by this conversation; I just need to know, should I cancel my plans for the rest of the night?
Come on somebody. Don't you men dare leave me up here by myself on this. It's just different, because typically a man is going to respond to the question: How was your day, with one syllable, it's monosyllabic, it's one, that's all we need. We've got fine, we've got good, we've got great, and sometimes we can just shrug, we don't even have to be bothered with activating our voice box at all.
So we have this ability to communicate more succinctly. And I used to think it was just Holly until the other day I asked Abby, "What's your favorite thing to do, Abby?" And she said, "Well I like to go to the pool, but this one time", I thought, oh God, she's got the disease, I mean the gift. She's got the gift, too. She's got the genetic generational blessing, too, of elaboration.
So in 1 Corinthians 7, the Apostle Paul is acting like a woman, y'all. The Corinthian's want to know, hey, like, is it okay to be single? What should we do about widows? And they ask him the sanitized list of questions, and he takes six chapters to deal with their real issues before he will answer the questions.
Now it's very possible that you came to church today with questions about your relationships. Valid questions about your relationships, like how will I know when he's the one, and how will I know when the time is right, and how will I find the right one?
But perhaps the question you're asking is not the real issue that you need to be dealing with. Perhaps there's an issue that's more important than the question, and perhaps before God gives you some specific answers to your questions, he wants to give you some healing for some of your issues, and some instructions for some of your issues.
See, before you find the right one, and mess up the right one because you're not yet the right one because you're got issues that are undealt with, and you're looking for somebody for security, and before you reach out and try to put the weight of your life and the expectation of your happiness on another person, perhaps God wants to teach you some sufficiency inside of yourself in Christ, so that when you do meet somebody, you won't project all of your dysfunction on that relationship, because you could turn the right one into the wrong one if you don't deal with your issues.
Touch three people and tell them we've got issues. We do. We do. The church at Corinth was crazy; prostitutes, and incest, and rampant misunderstandings of marriage. This church of new Christians who were living under Roman rule, trying to figure out how to do it God's way in a culture that was ungodly, and Paul says, let's talk about the real issues.
Now historically, the church has been really good as answering questions that nobody is asking, while being silent about the struggles that everybody is facing. So we put charts on the wall about when Jesus is coming back, even though he said nobody knew because he's coming like a thief in the night, meanwhile, we've got middle schoolers having oral sex on the back on the school bus, and nobody's standing up and saying anything about real issues.
And we've got Christians miserable in their marriages and just looking for a way out, and married people wishing they were single again, and single people trying all the wrong stuff on before they find the right one, and nobody's saying anything. We've got people dealing with issues of sexual abuse, and they can't engage in a loving relationship in a healthy way because nobody's talking about issues. We've got tips, we've got tricks, but we don't deal with the real issues.
I want to take five weeks with you and have conversations about real issues, because some of you, the questions that you're asking are not indicative of the real issues that you're dealing with; the issues that you don't even know how to talk about. I've got teenagers in my church trying to figure out how they can deal with their sexual conflict, knowing that if they admitted to their friends what they're really thinking about inside, they wouldn't have any friends anymore, and some of them are considering suicide because they can't find anywhere to talk about their issues. And I'm supposed to stand up here and just talk about the book of Revelation?
Answering questions that nobody's asking, while people are dying of issues? I've got couples that came to church this morning, smiling, knowing good and well you're trying to figure out which divorce lawyer, because you've got issues. Already making your escape plan, but came to church praising the Lord, and it's the only time you smile all week is when you're around other people, because you've got issues.
So I'm supposed to stand up here and just pontificate about crap that nobody's really thinking about, making it sound spiritual while our marriages look no different than the world, and Paul says I want to speak to you about real issues. And he says now that we've talked about the real stuff, I'll deal with your question. And here's a question somebody had posted. They said, "Is it okay if we want to not get married and we want to make a decision to be single? Is that okay?"
And Paul says in verse 1, "Yeah, that's fine. Now about the questions you asked, it is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman? That's fine." Paul's not saying you're better, or you're worse, he's just saying it's fine. He said in different seasons of our lives, we'll all have different callings that we'll experience, and it's good.