Heath Lambert: Our guest this week on the podcast is Brad Bigney. He’s the lead Pastor of Grace Fellowship Church, where he’s been for 20 years. And he is a counselor certified with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. And we are talking about a topic this week with Brad, that causes a lot of problems for a lot of people, it might cause a lot of problems for everybody, and it’s the issue of sex. But specifically, how to glorify God in your sexual relationship. One problem, as we think about this is the negative attitudes that Christians can have about sex in general which is a problem because God made sex to be good. What are some of the suspicious attitudes that Christians can have about sex in marriage?
Brad Bigney: Right. I think the mistake that so many Christians make, Heath, is understandable to some degree because God doesn’t just give us this gift and say, go for it —it’s good all the time, anytime, anywhere, anyway. Because there’s parameters and boundaries and outside of that is not good, the church’s unwittingly, I think, talk so much about where it’s not good, don’t do that, don’t, don’t, don’t. And the world has heard us, and I think even some of our kids growing up thinking it’s bad, it’s bad. It’s not bad. It’s wonderful. So, some of the mistakes and suspicious attitudes that I think Christians have and they carry into marriage often is sex is dirty, sex is dirty. There are hurtful things. Sexual abuse is not what God intended to be exposed to in certain ways at a young age, but it’s good. But I think so many Christians, even as I grew up in the church, I didn’t hear in the student ministry like I think I should have how good this is. I just constantly heard a harping not to do it. Don’t have sex, don’t have sex, don’t have sex. It was true, fornication is a sin. But it should have been framed up in this is so good, and God is so good. You want to experience the fullness of this and His blessing, so wait. Yeah, it wasn’t presented that way.
I think another thing that sometimes gets thrown in there along the way is, it’s a concession. It wasn’t God’s original thought. It’s certainly not in Scripture, it doesn’t teach that way. But that’s how they come across, because we live in a sin-cursed world, and people are going to have pressures and temptations, and their sexual being he throws us this bone. Okay, all right, do this but in a sense, God turns his head and it’s like I can’t even watch, I’m so embarrassed. That’s wrong. And then the Roman Catholic Church ran with this for some time, it’s simply procreation if you’re not having sex for the purpose of childbearing, it’s wrong. And the Scriptures make it clear, pleasure, God delights in our pleasure in it apart from childbearing. That’s good.
Heath Lambert: The Roman Catholic position is really kind of related to this as a concession, and just do it if you have to kind of thing, and when you have to is when we need kids. That issue of “I’ve been told it’s wrong for so long.” We have counseled a lot of couples my wife Lauren and I. And we talk to people all the time who they’re Christians and virgins, they waited. But they come back from their honeymoon and they’re feeling guilty. And they’re like, it’s hard to be told, no, no, no, no, no, and then switch it. So maybe a next question that we can ask. What are the ways that the Bible corrects these suspicious attitudes about sex?
Brad Bigney: If you just took the Scriptures that are clearly for the purpose of understanding better sex, you know sometimes like with parenting it’s fair to say we wish we had a book on parenting —we don’t. I wish we had a book on sexual pleasure — we do, the Song of Solomon. But even there, you can see, as you read through church history, how often the church fathers would take it and allegorize it entirely into Jesus and the church and there’s a place for that to some degree. But in its original intent, I believe it was to put on display the pleasures and delights of husband and wife in marital intimacy sex and it’s pretty racy. I mean the Jews did not allow their children to read it until they were 12. I mean when he talks about, I’m going to climb my palm tree and take hold as of its fruit. I’ll leave you to play that in your own mind. That’s exciting. You sense the excitement in each of them for the other in detail. There’s detail, it’s poetry. So, I’d admit it’s one of the most confusing books. Sometimes you say who’s talking? Who’s talking? And what is going on? But I tell you one thing, I may get lost at points with who’s talking, but there’s no mistake of the euphoria and the bliss and, the deep joy in this that God gave us in Song of Solomon.
Proverbs 5, likewise, Proverbs is filled with warnings about the seductress in the evil woman in sex outside of marriage. But within the warnings, we get this place in Proverbs 5 where he says let her breasts satisfy you at all times. You know, don’t take your desire somewhere else. And when you dig into those Hebrew words in that passage, that chunk of verses, they are some of the most extreme. It’s like literally says to be ravished in her love to be intoxicated in her love along the lines of drunkenness is what to play there for the sexual pleasure between a man and a woman. That you should be, not just out of duty, well let’s do this because God’s Word says do it. But to be so delighting in it, you’re so quenched in the marriage bed, you have little desire to look other places. And my wife and I are saddened by this, that there’s a lot of things I wish were different in the church, but I have to say this is one of them. Yeah, we’re 53 years old now, been married for 30 years, and we’re both shocked at the number of Christian couples that if this comes up appropriately, the honest answer is it’s horrible and they rarely have sex. We always laugh with each other and say, everyone that is not supposed to be having sex is, and those that are supposed to be having sex aren’t.
Heath Lambert: That’s true. Okay, so honest question here. The mechanics of a married couple, having sex and the mechanics of an unmarried couple, having sex are the same, no difference. The same biological act. And yet, one is wrong, and the other is right. Why is sex outside, if it’s a good thing, and it’s the same mechanical act, what’s the big deal?
Brad Bigney: Yeah, I think what’s not being understood well enough is that, yeah, the mechanics are the same, but sex is far more than just a biological or scientific or mechanical thing taking place. Because part of it is sex is to happen in the context of marriage and our understanding of marriage is bigger. Marriage is something that in Ephesians 5 when Paul said, you know, he presses husband’s loving and wives submitting and respecting and following and complementing. And he says, ah, let me tell you what’s really going. I talk of a mystery. I’m really speaking about Christ and the church. Because something so big is at play, sex is not just this little plaything to toy with. God intended for sex to be, I call it in a sense, the super glue, a super glue that knits souls together that knits hearts together. And quite honestly, Heath, you can say the mechanics are the same. They have all the body parts, they may be mature enough that it’s functioning, it could work. The delight that they experience is not at all. Because apart from openness, and complete trust and intimacy. Sex was intended to be the icing on the cake of a delightful relationship where you trust someone. When this happens night one because you hooked up in a bar and you’re at his apartment trust is not, there’s no way, intimacy, real openness, vulnerability. I always like to freak the high school kids out when I speak at the Christian School near us. And I’ll look at them there in the bleachers and because I know this is a deal and I’ll say, “listen to me, me, this bald guy is 53, and your parents are having the best sex, not you behind the bleachers, not you in the backseat of car”, and they’re always like, oh. It’s not the body, we don’t have the ripped abs anymore, we may not. It’s when two people have given themselves to each other and they trust each other. And she knows I’m for her. She can be completely vulnerable and she’s for me with my flaws because sex was meant to be a giving of one another. That’s the context in which it is amazing.
Heath Lambert: You know, my wife will say to girls all the time, you think sex is fun. Wait till you have guilt-free sex, wait until you have doubt-free sex, they’ll be there, we’re going to be together. Guilt-free, doubt-free sex blows the lid off. Alright so if people are listening to this and they say okay sex is good but wait till you’re married and that glorifies God so what does that mean? Does it mean just do it? Just have it, just have the sex? What are some practical ways that you would give to married couples to say beyond just have the sex, how can you actually tangibly practically glorify God in your sexual relationship?
Brad Bigney: Well, part of it is, is when you think about so much of Scripture, if you want to glorify God, I love Piper’s definition, “God is most glorified in us when we’re most satisfied in Him.” Even Christians when they come to the marriage bed, so empty, so hungry, so needy that they’re demanding and putting the weight of all their hopes and needs on this moment, it crushes it. Nothing in this world did God design to completely fulfill. I love CS Lewis’s, comment in Mere Christianity where he says, “if I find within myself a desire, that it seems like nothing in this world fully satisfies. The most obvious conclusion is that I was made for another world.” I am grateful for sex, but it will never be this off the chart, every time, my satisfaction. When you’re deeply enjoying your Savior, and your feeding on His Word and enjoying it, you can come and you can let up with some of the expectations. And along with Scripture, the goal is not, can I get what I need in this moment? I’ve come so needy. It’s can I give and can I please? And when both are looking to, please. Very, very good. So, I often will say sex, you can still talk about what God intended for sex in Philippians 2. Those verses where it just says my goal is supposed to be to not selfishly have my own agenda and I’m to consider the needs of others more than myself and think about the interest of others, more than myself. That’s how you glorify God. That I’m seeking to please someone else and I’m being so satisfied in God, I don’t come so needy or demanding and crush other people, and even crush good things that he gave me. But if I need it too much, and I expected to bear the weight of too much, it’s crushed.
Heath Lambert: So if you were going to point people to some resources that they could go to that, I would help out in this area. What would you say?
Brad Bigney: Christian couples that are struggling and they are, I would say get your mind renewed with God’s Word. Think like God thinks. You don’t need a technique book with diagrams first, just read Song of Solomon, read God’s Word and understand that it’s good, and get a new framework of good. Then I’d say get some other good books. Dr. Bob Smith is a medical doctor and a biblical counselor, his little book 75 Pages, Biblical Principles of Sex. I use it with people all the time especially young married women, they’ve said to me wow, that was so helpful. I love CJ Mahaney’s, Sex, Romance, and The Glory of God, for guys, before you touch her body, touch her heart. And then I love Linda Dillow’s, Intimate Issues for Ladies Who Have Struggled with Abuse in the Past.
But I would say, finally talk about it. We’ve got Christian couples who expect it to get better without talking about it. You got to talk about your finances. You got to talk about parenting. You got to talk about your in-laws. For this to get better, you’re probably going to have to talk, but I know it seems awkward. Talk about your sexual relationship and then recognize that very often, your sex, how good or bad it is usually not the biggest problem. I find that the sexual relationship is almost always the first casualty of a bad marriage. When you come to the marriage bed with a less-than-great marriage, you’re going to have less-than-great sex. Consider, what’s going on in your marriage before you just rush to, we need a sex book.